The good, bad, ugly social media

Due to the immense pressure from our journalism lecturers at the Uni of Tampere, I decided to give Twitter a try. After all, you can’t claim to know social media at a job interview, unless you have tried out something else besides Facebook.

Twitter is actually quite an exciting platform, even though I’m sure I have not fully understood its full potential after two days. I’ve started to follow lots of different medias and organizations around the world, which might add to the hectic speed of updates. It does take a while to go back to a tweet if you wish to do so, because remembering when and where you read that tweet can take a while.

I do think that it can be used as a real-time interactive platform, which can be used in a much more professional sense than Facebook. Within the past 24 hours I have spent with Twitter, I’ve bumped into 3 interesting pieces of news about the digital world and social media.

1. Panic about Instagram starting to use our pictures for advertising and getting money for it. See original article here.

2. Scaring Samsung Smart TV owners about the fact, how easily their TVs can be hacked into. See video here.

3. Thoughts on whether those embarrassing photos we were tagged in, can still be found online after 10 years. See debate here.

It is intriguing how everyone is going on and on about social media, but are so scared of it. Perhaps we should really think more carefully how much of our private lives and personal information we share online. We crave to use “free” networking services, and are constantly afraid of how our information is being used. If there are photos and updates you don’t think someone should see, no matter how “private” your profile is, think twice before uploading it online.

 

Self-Regulation of the Tanzanian Media

A very good friend of mine, Dr. Ayub Rioba, just defended his PhD Dissertation on Media Accountability in Tanzania’s Multiparty Democracy at the University of Tampere last week Monday.

Ayub Rioba defending his PhD Dissertation “Media Accountability in Tanzania’s Multiparty Democracy: Does self-regulation work?” at the University of Tampere 29.10.2012.

Rioba is a journalism lecturer at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He started his academic career at the Makerere University with a BA in Mass Communication. Later Rioba did his M.A. in Journalism at the University of Cardiff. Rioba also writes columns for Tanzanian newspapers, such as the Raia Mwema, and is known for his critical and fearlessly truthful commentary on the Tanzanian society.

A few days ago the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland’s Development Communications Group published an article by freelancer Terhi Friman on Rioba. Many of my Tanzanian friends in Finland and back in Tanzania have expressed their wish to understand the contents of the article; therefore I have taken the freedom to loosely translate the article. (Original article in Finnish can be found here.)

Journalism Profession not Alluring Tanzanians

A fresh dissertation claims that journalists in Tanzania are being paid poorly, corruption is thriving, and the media is not doing enough to improve democracy in the country.

Tanzania’s media is doing well in numbers. The country has 54 newspapers at the moment, out of which 10–12 are dailies. The amount is big. For example in neighbouring Kenya, there are only three newspapers. In addition there are also numerous radio and TV stations.

However, quality of the media is another case.

Musoma-born Ayub Rioba researched Tanzanian media and its self-regulation in his doctoral dissertation for the University of Tampere.

Social media is being used widely in Tanzania, even though smartphones and Internet connections are expensive. According to Rioba, many people still find a way to use the Internet – the Tanzanian way.

“We are not like you Finns. When a Tanzanian steps into a daladala, he will instantly tell four or five people what he read in a blog or other news on the net. This is how information moves forward. Even though according to the statistics only 4% of the population have Internet, it doesn’t reflect the reality.”

Unprofessional journalists

Journalists in Tanzania are being paid poorly and the profession is not very popular anymore. Rioba teaches journalism at the University of Dar es Salaam and he also writes for a few newspapers. He knows that young people would rather choose a job in the field of PR than journalism.

Corruption is thriving everywhere in the society, including the media.

There are many unprofessional journalists in working life. Media owners have a say in many things.

According to Rioba, the country’s history does not show in the way the media deals with issues. The media has adopted a Western way of reporting, even though the people’s mindset is still bound to the African culture.

On the other hand, the media is under the constraints of corruption and conflicts of interests. And nothing is being done about that. According to Rioba, there are many journalists who do not act as responsible professionals.

”Everywhere in Tanzania people are talking and they have the courage to express themselves. In that sense freedom of speech is being fulfilled. People want to state their opinions.”

Ineffective self-regulation

Laws as well as a voluntary self-regulatory council, the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), regulate media in Tanzania.

In theory, all of Tanzania’s media functions under MCT, and other African countries have used it as a model in their own countries.

According to Rioba, MCT could be used to improve the quality of journalism in Tanzania, but it is basically toothless. MCT has worked hard and it has arbitrated cases brought to it, but its work is ineffective.

According to Rioba’s dissertation, the liberal democracy, which has characterized Tanzania’s reform process since the 1980s, has hindered the country’s development. Tanzania has been listening to the dictates of international financial institutions and donors, and it has not been noticed that liberal democracy does not fit the country.

What works in the United States or the United Kingdom does not work in Tanzania. According to Rioba, for example, the Nordic social structure would suit Tanzania better.

(Terhi Friman)

Happy 94th Independence Day Finland!

I have noticed that I am mentally closer and closer to Finland as days pass. It’s not that I’m not enjoying Mwanza… I’ve just come to realize that February is very nearby, and I should be sending out job applications right now for next summer, my master’s thesis should be ready soon, I need to find myself an apartment in Tampere, and so on.

But instead of thinking of the should-do list, I’ll give Finland and independence a thought today. I had a discussion with our Communication Ethics & Media Management lecturer, Dr. Njoroge, yesterday at lunch on how independence is celebrated abroad as opposed to at home. Njoroge said that when she used to live in the USA all the Kenyans would gather up and have massive parties to celebrate independence, but now she’s just happy that there’s a public holiday when she’s back home, and she’s got a day off. I’ve seen the way people Tanzanians, Kenyans and Nigerians celebrate independence in the UK, and yes, they do party hard.

An image of "Suomi-neito", The Finnish Maiden, by an unknown artist from a postcard in 1906. Blue is for the thousands of lakes and the blue sky. White is for the snow that covers the land during winter.

I remember the time in my life when the jolly cocktail party, also known as the Independence Day Reception held at the Ambassador’s residence was not the main point of Independence Day.

My mother would light a blue and white candle by the dining room window, and we would spend the day pretty much indoors. Independence day in my childhood meant quietness, darkness outside (because it’s December), a blue and white candle (for the Finnish flag), and sitting in front of the TV watching people shake hands with the Finnish President  at the Independence Day Reception held at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.

I don’t remember it being a celebration, except for maybe the ones at the Presidential Palace. The job of the average Finn is to sit by the telly and comment/criticize the dresses, walking style, choice of partner, lack of partner, and what not of the “lucky ones”, who got an invitation to the ‘Palace’.

I can’t really say what Finns do nowadays, since I kind of missed out on 8   years. According to the Facebook statuses I’ve been looking at, young adults are enjoying the break. (News just came in on FB, that my old classmate has a black eye and a broken phone, and my childhood friend has “broken” his liver and brains).

Last year I spent ID making a story about how two foreigners living in Finland find the traditional Independence Day ritual of drinking ‘glögi’ and watching the handshaking and dancing. The article turned out quite good actually.

Independence Day 2002 in Dar. My friend Martin and I at the reception on Kenyatta Drive, when we were still young...

Between 2002-2006, when I was living in Dar, Independence Days meant receptions at home. I think my mother only managed to get me to wear the national dress at the first reception. ——–>

This year I’ve decided to skip the traditional reception in Dar, and celebrate in Mwanza. (Yes, I did get an invitation, don’t worry. All Finns who are registered here get one.)

Us Finns in Mwanza will be celebrating our 94 years on Friday, when Tanzania will be celebrating it’s 50 years of independence. I’ll be joining people from the Finnish Evangelic Lutheran Mission for some graavilohi (salmon), homemade rye bread, meatballs, karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pastries), salad, sausages and the most important…. SAUNA! I promised my friend from FELM that I’ll help with the Karelian pastries, egg butter and the salad.

I need that sauna now…

Who Said There’s No Water?

Just because there's no water coming from the pipes, doesn't mean there's no water...

After a long and agonizing night of sweating out yet another fever of 38.1°C I was hoping to have a refreshing shower and put on a healthy and brave face on Sunday morning. Hopefully I’m not jinxing it, but we’ve had no electricity cut for a day and a half now… But I’ve found a new phenomenon: electricity = no water and vice versa. I’m glad there’s lots of H2O pouring down naturally. (Note to self: mentioning the fact that there’s no power cuts leads to an immediate power cut).

Just take the buckets outside and you’re sorted! It didn’t take more than 7 minutes for the bucket to be full! I’m hoping that today (Monday) there will be rain like yesterday, so I can fill my buckets again.

Mvua ni Baraka – Rain is a Blessing

Blessings raining down on us at Lavoir on my birthday.

Last Saturday was my birthday. I dreamt of being anywhere else  but in rainy and chilly Mwanza; Zanzibar, Dar, Serengeti, Mombasa. However I was still not feeling good after a suspected malaria and all the meds, so I decided to stay in town. On Saturday morning I woke up as usual, at 7am for a breakfast of instant coffee, powdered milk, chapati and white bread (carbohydrates much?). A retired  Belgian professor called Theresa teaching sociology and an Ethiopian Dr. teaching social ethics and comparative religion remembered I wasn’t supposed to be around on Saturday because of my birthday, and sang to me happy birthday in an empty canteen at 7am. That was the beginning of my blessed and rainy birthday.

The graduation of over 3,000 students in one day is not easy to organize, and I would have loved to have seen three of my classmates graduating. But the rain… There was no way I was going to the grounds to get another fever, especially since I had no idea at what time between 10am and 5pm my classmates would be graduating. So instead I headed to town with my other classmate, Kilian, who had already graduated from Tumaini University to get a card for Mboya, who was going to have a party later in the evening.

The road to the Butimba prison.

Before making it to town we went to visit one of our MAMC2 colleagues, who happens to be working for the Butimba prison. After the blessed rain of the morning the air was perfect for a long walk, so Kilian, his neighbor and I decided to take a hike. Especially since most of the daladalas were full and the roads congested with graduands/graduates and their relatives.

The prison grounds started after this hill (on the left), so the camera went back in to my bag quite quickly after taking this picture. Kilian also knows a thing or two about TPS (Tanzania Prisons Service), since he works for them as well.

Looking at the walls of the women’s prison from my classmate’s house was intriguing. However I definitely felt safe spending my birthday in the company of two guys from the TPS and a police officer.

After a long daladala ride in the traffic jam caused by the graduates going to town take pictures by the infamous fish in the middle of a ‘kipi lefti’ in town, we found all stationaries were out of ‘Congratulations’ cards or shut already. After walking about for a while we decided to give up and just go back to our hoods in Nyegezi. 

Funnily enough just hopping off the daladala in Nyegezi corner I found a big bottle of Grant’s, a nice card and a box for the bottle. Problem solved. Although yesterday I found out that the lady at the stationary knew Mboya, and had told him everything. She had apparently asked Mboya why that mzungu (me) spoke such good Kiswahili. Oh well, it’s the thought that matters, really.

We walked to Tema Hotel, where Mboya was to have his graduation party. Apparently Tema Hotel used to be the place to be… back in the 80’s and 90’s. Now it’s not very well looked after, but the owner and staff are nice. And Mboya got to organize his hard-earned graduation party. I can only try to imagine the hell he’s been through trying to work full-time and study full-time, all at the same time.

 So no regrets whatsoever that I didn’t spend my birthday in the Indian Ocean. I even got fed cake at Mboya’s and his friend’s Betty’s graduation party. I would put a picture here for you, but unfortunately the picture wasn’t very flattering, so I’ll just share the graduation / birthday portrait. 😉

 

 

The Bad Bad West and other unfortunate things

David Cameron did not know what a storm he was starting in a teacup, when he said that aid to countries with poor records on homosexual rights would be cut. (Please note the word cut, not withdrawn completely.) According to the Daily Mail (10th October 2011) the British government has already cut aid to Malawi by 19 million pounds after two gay men were sentenced to 14 years hard labour. Mr Cameron brought the issue up in a meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of State in Perth, Australia.

“International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell could also reduce aid to Uganda and Ghana unless they drop laws against gays.

Uganda, which is due to receive 70 million pounds in 2011, plans to punish homosexuality with the death penalty” (Martin, Daniel. 10.10.2011. “Foreign aid for countries with anti-gay rights records to be slashed, pledges Cameron” in Daily Mail).

On 3rd of November The Citizen (a Tanzanian daily) reported on the Tanzanian government’s reaction to Cameron’s speech.

“Changing the law simply because we need aid is next to impossible. We have our values… That is not acceptable; we would rather do without it.” – Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohammed Shein.

“We have our own culture and it should be known and understood that we shall not receive any command from anywhere using whatever sanctions to undermine our way of living.” – Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mr Bernard Membe.

Apparently Tanzania had just refused to accept the posting of a gay British diplomat in Dar es Salaam. Mr Membe termed Cameron’s suggestion as “dangerous”: “Mr Cameron’s move could seriously hurt bilateral relations among members of the Commonwealth”.

The Minister of Gender, Children and Community Development, Ms Sophia Simba, was on the same lines, saying that Tanzanians can’t allow their culture to be influenced by weird behaviors from the Western world.

——–

These are interesting times to be European in Tanzania to say the least. Last Sunday I was on my way back to the SAUT campus in a taxi, when a traffic police officer stopped the car, and asked for a ride to a place where there had been an accident. In Tanzania the traffic police rely on rides, since they don’t have their own cars. After some chitchat on the life of police officers in Tanzania and Finland, he asked me why the UK is demanding for Tanzanians to become gay. Having decided to avoid discussing this matter completely with Tanzanians, I just shrugged my shoulders, and said “I don’t know, I’m not from the UK”.  He let me off this time. Unfortunately he’s not the only one asking me that question.

A week ago on Saturday a first-year law student hanged himself in the bushes behind the library. The first explanation I heard, was that he had written a note, where he had said that he was being called gay, which he was not, and he decided to kill himself.

It did not take long for JamiiForums, (a forum of thinking people in TZ), to pick up on the story. “The student killed himself because his colleagues called him a Cameron”. Cameron is the new synonym of gay in Tanzania.

As can be suspected, the rumors started spreading, and everyone had a different version of what really happened. The latest version I heard was that the guy had had a girlfriend, who some other guys wanted. They told him that they’d do something to him unless he gave her up, which he obviously didn’t. They got him drunk, raped him, and started calling him gay. He didn’t say anything, just wrote his last note, explaining what had happened and who the six guys were. His body was taken back home to Kilimanjaro fur burial. What really happened will probably remain a mystery forever, but the timing of someone killing himself because he was called gay could not be scarier.

Since that day I have felt down, frustrated and just tired of this all.

——–

This week two other students have died as well. A girl was hit by a vehicle, most probably a car. And on Thursday we were at Bugando hospital picking up some girls from SAUT, who had just said farewell to their classmate. He had sickle cell disease, and malaria. At the SAUT dispensary they had said that he didn’t have it, eventually he got taken to Bugando, but after two days he died.

Since the beginning of the semester I have also seen the pictures of three different girls, with messages of R.I.P or other writings about their death. I can’t explain how depressing that is. Walking past pictures of the dead while going to class – just reminds you how delicate life is. You never know when you’ll be gone.

——–

So this has been my mood for the past week. Not forgetting the thousands of assignments from Uni of Tampere and SAUT.

St. Augustine of Hippo

Here is some more interesting facts about SAUT…

“Vision and Mission
St. Augustine University of Tanzania, a secular and private institution of higher learning owned and managed by the Catholic Church, is dedicated to St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.), with the motto “Building the City of God”.

Vision
When the Catholic Bishops of Tanzania decided to extend the Church’s services to the provision of higher education they envisioned a training that would impart academic and professional skills, as well as inculcate values of civic and social learning, such as acquisition of national identity, cultural norms, political growth and responsible citizenship. Thus the Church’s vision is holistic  development of a person and respect for human dignity.

Mission
St. Augustine University of Tanzania strives at:

i. being a centre of excellence by providing a high quality of education, research and public service;

ii. promoting the pursuit and defense of truth with transparency and honesty, and service with competence and dedication;

iii. developing a sense of caring for personal and community property.

iv. a holistic development of the person by providing a sound knowledge, higher analytical ability and commitment to generous service and respect to humankind.

Conscious of man’s orientation towards God and neighbour and fostering an ethical and service-orented approach in its academic and professional training, St. Augustine University of Tanzania fulfils its goal by preparing persons well equipped to contribute to the ideals of social, economic and political development.
Surprisingly, I’m having discussions about religion here at SAUT once in a while. Worry not mother, I’m staying diplomatic. Anyway, a few days ago I was sitting at Gamba beach with a lecturer of mine and the owner of Nyegezi Mini Supermarket, Lenny. Lenny was studying to become a priest before, until he realized that he won’t be able to support his younger siblings with the money that comes out from being a priest, and decided to stop only a few days before he was to become a priest. Now he has a few businesses and he travels around the world ever so often. Anyway, Lenny still knows a thing or two about Christianity.

We were talking about ancestor worship, witchcraft and all sorts of normal things here in Tanzania, when I was asked whether Finland had natural religions. Not about to lie, I said of course. We have our shamans and the Vikings could never take over Finland because they were so scared of our witches. Christianity was as much of an imported religion to Finland as it was to Tanzania. After pondering on these things for a while, Lenny poured some of his konyagi on the sand and started reciting something in Kisukuma (I think). He told my lecturer and myself that is the way you get the blessings of your ancestors, by giving them some gifts. I decided to give my ancestors some beer as well.

Lenny went on to say, that he thinks it’s ok to still remember our ancestors. “I’ve never seen any Saints from Tanzania or Africa. I’ve never seen an African being chosen as a Saint. I think our ancestors are our Saints”.

I liked that thought. And it just goes to show what a faint line there still is between the pre-Christian and the Christian era.

The original point of this story was that when you type in “St. Augustine of Hippo” (the guy who this University is dedicated to) in Google Images, you find that most of the pictures of him depict him as caucasian. Even though he was born in what we today call Algeria. I wonder what he really looked like… Maybe something like this:

St. Augustine of Hippo - Icon by Nancy Oliphant

I am supposed to be doing something else completely right now, but I love history, so here’s a few interesting facts I found out about St. Augustine.

– Augustine was born on November 13th, 354 at Tagaste, North Africa.
– He died on 28th August, 430 in Hippo. (Where he was ordained Bishop of Hippo in 396).
– Before converting to Christianity he was attracted to Manichaeism and Neoplatonism.
– Augustine was a prolific writer and his own words were very important for the formation of church doctrine.
– Augustine was one of the 8 great Doctors of the Church – he may have been the most influential philosopher ever.
– His most famous works are Confessions and City of God.  —> hence “Building the City of God”
– Apparently the Eastern Christians mostly consider Augustine a heretic.
– Some of his famous quotes:

“My ears were already satiated with similar things; neither did they appear to me more conclusive, because better expressed; nor true, because oratorical; nor the spirit necessarily wise, because the face was comely and the language eloquent.”
– Confessions V. 6

A Meditation of St. Augustine 
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new. Too late have I loved you!

You were within me while I had gone outside to seek you. In my unloveliness, I fell heedlessly upon all those lovely things you had made. Always you were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me far from you; yet if they had not been in you, they would not have been at all.

You called, you shouted, you broke open my deafness. You blazed, you gleamed, you banished my blindness. You lavished your fragrance, I gasped, and now I long for you. I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and now I burn with desire for your peace.”
– Confessions (X, 27,38)