On the Freedom of Expression Vs the Survival of ‘Small’ Newspapers: Media Attachment Report on Fahamu Newspaper

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By Mohammed Khelef

Introduction

Why Investing in the Newspaper?

Now, than any other time of human history, we have been living in the media age. Our community is somehow mediated, that is to say it depends on the media for its share of information.

Why Fahamu Newspapers for Media Attachment

Fahamu is a weekly paper of three years old, being established in 2005 as the result of anxious efforts of enlarging sphere of news airing. It is one among the few papers which offer a wide range of analysis in all matters concerning the society, from political, social, and economic to cultural issues. Reading the articles and reports on it, one can witness an audacity required in this time of the freedom of expression.

I was, therefore, impressed by the courage shown by this small newspaper and so wanted to learn more about its operation while being within as well as undergoing my academic intentions during the internship.

My expectations were that, I would be able to meet new challenges while learning new things in my profession and that I would use that experience to enhance my carrier, both as an academic and a professional.

As mentioned in this report, some, if not all, of my expectations were ultimately met and the rooms had been there for me to learn and equipped myself for new challenges to come.

Context

In this part of the report, five areas will be explored: origin, organization and organizational structure of Fahamu Publishers, Fahamu what-about, and experience during attachment, problems and challenges, and suggestions and opportunities.

Historical Background of the Organization

Fahamu Newspaper owned by Fahamu Publishers, which is a company owned by a political party, the Civic United Front (CUF). Apart from owning this paper, Fahamu Publishers does also operate, though theoretically, to run a radio and television station, to be named Fahamu Radio and Fahamu TV consecutively.

2.2 Organizational Structure

The organization does have its general board formulated by six members and then other boards from each category, i.e newspaper, radio and televison. Up to now, the one in practice is only a newspaper department, i.e Fahamu Newspaper Board.

For the sake of organizing and coordinating matters in the office, the board is responsible for the working of the newspaper. Accountable to it, is the editorial board, business manager and financial department, while news and column editors, photojournalists, reporters and office assistants are directly accountable to the editorial board.

2.3.0 Fahamu Newspaper

Fahamu means ‘understand’ in Swahili. As its motto, it is read ‘Sauti ya Watu’ which means people’s voice. So at the bottom line of its mission and vision, the paper speaks of the will to empower people through the access of information for information is by itself a power.

Observed at the field attachment were the activities and styles so oriented to achieve the mission.

2.3.1 Format

The paper comprises of 16 pages with this format:

Pg. 1 and 2 – National News

Pg. 3 – Special Column/Zanzibar

Pg. 4 – Weekly News Summary/Short Article

Pg. 5 – Special Column/Tanzania Mainland

Pg. 6 – Editorial/Readers Box

Pg. 7 – Analysis: Politics

Pg. 8 – Analysis: Economic matters

Pg. 9 – Column/News from or about CUF

Pg. 10 – Analysis: International Politics

Pg. 11 – Columnist: Social Matters

Pg. 12 – Columnist: Special Feature for the Disabled

Pg. 13 – Article on Youth

Pg. 14 – Columnist: Woman Voice

Pg. 15 – World Sports Summary

Pg. 16 – Analysis: Sports/Arts

2.3.2 Content

As mentioned in the introduction, Fahamu is the analytical paper based mainly on news analysis rather than news reportage. Its content, therefore, is what known as “intellectual panorama” in which matters are described to present the writer’s point of view and not the bare fact of it.

Most of the columns and articles in the paper are entitled to give different perspectives and a bit deeper explanation of issues. The arrangement of the articles suggests that it has aimed only on analysis and not on reporting. That is why apart from the first two pages, the whole paper is about analyzing issues.

2.3.3 Production and Publication

Learned from this field attachment is the fact that, newspaper production is not an action, but rather a process that starts from collection of raw information to smartly and professionally edited and printed paper, ready to be read. In this process, the work piece is passing through five different sequential stages which are reporting, editing, pasting, printing and finally distributing to agents ready to be sold.

Learned also was the fact that these stages are not the titles but functions, so can be performed with few committed personnel. Fahamu has taught me so. The whole production task is performed by not more than three people. While this may seem to be showing a scarcity on human resources, it can also be translated as a modern way of production in which a number of people in the firm does not matter much as long as computer technology exists.

The paper is published by Fahamu Publishers and printed by Mwananchi Communications. It is a weekly tabloid supposed to be on streets every Monday, though due to financial problems I met situations whereby the paper was not able to go to the printer in a proper time.

2.3.4 Distribution and Circulation

In common practice, circulation and distribution are the two terms applying to the same phenomenon. They both can be defined as the process of supplying the products in time and in good quality from production stage to the last targeted consumer or client. The facilitators of this exercise are suppliers, agents and street vendors.

Wamasa Publishers, the owners and distributors of Wamasa publications that include Sani, Ambha, and Visa, are sole distributors of Fahamu. The production was ranging between 10,000 to 12,000 copies a week with which returns was between 10% to 20%, an actual alarming rate.

To the time I ended my internship, Fahamu was circulated in at least five regions of Tanzania Mainland, i.e. Dar es Salaam, Pwani, Tanga, Morogoro and Tabora. Absolutely it is read widely in Zanzibar and Pemba due to its roots.

2.3.5 Readership

Due to its content, Fahamu scope of readership is very limited to special people. Most often, people of certain level of education, at least from A’ Level, are the ones that have been guaranteed readers of Fahamu. Also people with specific profession or interests such as politicians, officers from Special Brach and students of Political Science have been found in a sounding number to be constant readers of this paper.

Exclusively enough, young men and women with no special interests are not fond of this paper, the fact that counts on its financial stand off.

2.4.0 Experience during Attachment

I did my internship at Fahamu with full of ambitions and projections. Though not every expectation has been fulfilled, little I have obtained from the field is of great importance to my life and academic carrier.

During attachment, I was entrusted with many tasks by Fahamu leadership and in each I tried my best to learn new things and accept new challenges. For example, I was given a role of journalist, photographer, a columnist and even an assistant editor.

2.4.1 Working sphere and Office Management

In normality, the office opened from 8.30am to 4.30pm, the period which we were required to be or to do the office works. However, the nature of our profession does not always allow such limitation in time scope. Most often we were forced by the circumstances to work beyond office hours and outside the office. In such situation, the office car was there to serve us.

2.4.2 As a Journalist

As a journalist, I had the experience to attend and participate in many functions, most of which political, in which I gather news, ask questions and do interviews. For example, since I was in the internship by the time the talks on Zanzibar Muafaka failed between two rivalry political parties in Tanzania (CCM and CUF), I attended the special press conference held by CUF at their Buguruni headquarters, did interview and wrote a story.

2.4.3 As a Photographer

As a photographer, I took a lot of photographs for the paper and most of them appear in the newspaper as this one below:

2.4.4 As a Columnist

As a columnist, I was given a special column to write about Zanzibar politics and I wrote many articles during the internship, some of which are obtained in my weblog, http//:www.zanzibardaima.wordpress.com.

2.4.5 As Assistant Editor

I was also given a task to help in editing articles sent by various contributors. With the help of the chief editor, I managed to perform this task very well.

3. 0 Challenges

Fahamu Newspaper is by no means a big newspaper in the country though it is striving for the betterment. During my media attachment, I did see some efforts to strengthen the paper, but I also witnessed the downfall of the paper. One of the basic problem facing Fahamu, and may be other small serious papers in the country, is the lack of advertisements.

Big business and big companies are not ready to advertise in serious papers like Fahamu in fearing their plight under the government pressure. Be this fear justified or not, still it does not guarantee the life of freedom of expression, one of the most important human rights.

Fahamu does have also a problem of manpower, human resources. There is no enough personnel to work on the field, nor enough in the office itself. It is not unusual for one person in Fahamu to be given three tasks, not because he is good in all of them, but because there is nobody else to do them. I found myself in that position, though it benefited me a lot, I have to admit.

4.0 Some working suggestions

There are some suggestions to be made concerning both the quest of media attachment in general and the area I went for that attachment, i.e Fahamu, in particular.

4.1 On Media Attachment

This time, not as it was in 1st Year, most of us experienced a lack of certainty to where we go and what we do in the fields. Since there was a good number who chose to go for Public Relations, a sense of unprepared ness prevailed and as a result many students found themselves lost in between, not knowing where to go, nor what to do.

It is suggested here that, the Mass Communication leadership should be concerned from the beginning on the placement for media attachment and make follow up prior to the letter of introduction.

This report is also of the opinion that, our Mass Communication Department is far from being a center of preparing the students who take the course for the real market. Spoken here is the lack of facilities that make mass communication a mass communication. While the department has been blessed to have good tutors and an exceptional leader, it is now the role of the college to equip the department so as to fulfill our mission and vision. Studios for radio and television and a printing machine for newspapers are highly demanded.

4.2 On Fahamu Newspaper

Without fading away any praise that Fahamu deserves, it is imperative to say that this paper has a vivid chance to develop and become a very big and respected paper if it can only arrange itself for the job.

In marketing, Fahamu needs organizing personnel in business oriented hierarchy and a technical team. In human resources, it needs to prepare job descriptions, to train for empowering personnel through internal training capacity building, and to facilitate all necessary productional facilities as required. In administration, it needs vibrant administrative team and to smoothen hierarchical bureaucracy.

In general, Fahamu does need a new leadership with new approach and new strategy. But most important, it needs money to invest on. Obviously, today Fahamu does not have that money.

Therefore, suggested here is the idea of selling the paper to another organization or people who will still serve the long established mission and vision of its founders, i.e. human rights, good governance and rule of law.

Conclusion

In all aspects of modern life, media have become an essential institution for facilitating acquisition of knowledge and democratization. In a country like ours, where we seek to establish a democratic society, having the vibrant media is not a luxury but a necessity. That is to say, a newspaper like Fahamu has to live its life to the full.

As I left Fahamu offices to come back to the college, I witnessed the paper on its death-bed. I thought, and still believe, it will be shame to this nation if Fahamu goes for good.

Bibliography

  1. Gamble, M & T. K., Communication Works (1999), McGraw-Hill College, New York, USA.
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  3. Lucas, S. E., The Art of Public Speaking (1995), McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York, USA.
  4. Cruisus, T. M. & Channell, C. E., The Aims of Argument (2003), McGraw-Hill, New York, USA.
  5. Payne, J., Applications Communication for Personal and Professional Contexts (2001), Clark Publishing, Inc., Chicago, USA.
  6. Kothari, C. R., Research Methodology: Methods and Techniques (2000), Daryagan, New Delhi, India.
  7. Gondwe, G., Notes on Public Relations (presented to TUDarCO Mass Communication Students on March 2007), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
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  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_relations
  10. http://www.princetonreview.com/cte/profiles/dayInLife.asp?careerID=171
  11. www.dictionary.com
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