December 4, 2022

Watetezi Media

Official Website for Watetezi Media


By Kizito Makoye, Watetezi TV

As a journalist who has reported on land disputes in various parts of the country including that of Loliondo and Ngorongoro, I am deeply disturbed by the growing pattern of misinformation disseminated by mainstream media organisations and tabloids, by involving fellow journalists and TV presenters, ostensibly to frustrate indigenous Maasai communities especially those living in disputed wildlife corridor in Loliondo on the grounds that they inflict damage to nature and are disturbing wildlife sanctuaries.

I recently spotted a short video on twitter, depicting Maulid Kitenge, a renowned sports radio presenter, who allegedly called-upon the Ministry of Tourism and Natural resources to find way to stop increasing human activities in the Ngorongoro because, in his recent tour to the park, he had to unnecessarily drive far away to spot an elephant.

Of course as a veteran journalist, Kitenge has the right to promote his work on social media which, in my opinion plays a vital role in journalism in this digital age.Like journalists everywhere, local reporters have every reasons to promote their work, provide real-time reporting harvest and curate information and engage with readers, listeners or viewers and interestingly experiment with new forms of storytelling.

While reporters can effectively pull back the curtain and invite readers to witness and potentially contribute to their reporting as Kitenge often does, it is important to note that social media, if not handled appropriately presents potential risks likely to erode credibility of a journalist.

When a renowned reporter like Kitenge is perceived as biased or if he engages in smear campaign on social media that can almost certainly undercut the credibility of their reporting.

I was equally shocked by the warped reasoning of this supposedly seasoned journalist, who doesn’t seem to have grasp of basic facts about the Maasai ethnic group in the sprawling Ngorongoro area— who are known worldwide for their distinctive way of life dazzling red robes and distended earlobes—and how they have since time immemorial peacefully co-existed with wildlife.

Alongside beautiful scenery, the archaeological wealth and the wildlife, are the Maasai people who with their strong insistence on maintaining their traditional customs and colourful clothes, interest many visitors. About 100, 000 Maasai pastoralists live in Ngorongoro conservation area with their cattle, donkey, goats and sheep.

I strongly believe, Kitenge has been to a school of journalism. Sadly, for reasons known to himself he has chosen to abandon the core values of journalism ethics.

Kitenge, has apparently fully thrown his weight behind the state’s propaganda machinery and engaged in frenzied jostling for bad publicity against Maasai to suit selfish interest of the officialdom.

Kitenge should know that as a reporter, his job is to cover the news as impartially as possible—without fear or favour.
The reputation of his reporting MUST rest on those perceptions, thus he should strive to avoid conflict of interest or an appearance of a conflict as it is the case for the on-going propaganda against n Maasai herders in Ngorongoro and Loliondo.

As a credible reporter, Kitenge should avoid posting anything on social media likely to damage his reputation of neutrality and fairness.
I am quite certain the state is running propaganda against Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo and Ngorongoro with intent to forcefully evict them from their native land and pave way for trophy hunting and eco-tourism project.
Local journalists who are agenda setter should jealously guard journalism ethics by rejecting being part of that propaganda.

Nothing compares the suffering that Maasai people go through since they were first evicted from their areas in 1959 to pave way for the establishment of the Serengeti national park. The Maasai have subsequently suffered as their homesteads set ablaze by wildlife officials, their cattle seized and some of them branded illegal immigrants.As law abiding citizen of this country, the Maasai are entitled to certain inalienable rights as the right to live. Their rights must be protected.

Shockingly, the plight of Maasai people has from year to year continued to worsen as authorities repeatedly accuse them of disrupting migratory patterns of wildlife and encroaching the state’s protected land.I know very well the root cause of this problem. The government is looking for commercial interests at the expense of the wellbeing of the Maasai whose livelihood solely depend on cattle rearing.

Those on power have probably forgotten they are trampling on the rights of the very people they swore to defend. It doesn’t click in my mind why should anyone grab swathes of village land, thus rendering thousands of people homeless, simply because they want to give the land to a wealthy investor from the United Arab Emirate and suit his insatiable appetite for wild meat. This is unacceptable.

I was speaking with the National Coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), the other day, who happens to be a native Maasai himself about co-existence between humans and wildlife in the Ngorongoro Conservation area—a UNESCO’s World Heritage site known for its sparkling landscapes, volcanic highlands, dense forests and vast plains, and he shared very invaluable insights about how the Maasai have for decades lived harmoniously with wildlife.

According to him, when for instance, a lion develops a behaviour of pouncing on livestock or injure people, which happens very rarely by lone male lions, it has to be killed.
In Ngorongoro lions rarely prey on domesticated cattle, they instead stalk on wildlife such as zebras, antelopes, wildebeests etc. The Maasai people to have always been the custodian of livestock in the wider Ngorongoro area as attested by a recent photo posted on twitter depicting a wildebeest calf being taken care of by a Maasai lady.

Apparently the state has launched a vicious media campaign to peddle a flawed narrative aimed at tainting the image of the Maasai in Loliondo and Ngorongoro.
This campaign, sadly involves senior journalists and reporters from the mainstream media, who are facilitated to spread malicious falsehood and misinformation against native Maasai pastoralists.
It is a very sad state of affairs, since it involves journalists who are otherwise perceived as the mirror of the society.

What surprises me is that the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), whose mission is to sustainably conserve biodiversity and cultural heritage, enhance livelihood of the indigenous communities and promote tourism for the benefit of the nation and the world, is terribly silent on the on-going misleading information which makes human rights campaigners believe they are probably part of that smear campaign by Kitenge and his henchmen.

NCAA has failed to honour its core values of integrity, professionalism, advocacy transparency and accountability

I would request fellow journalists to reject being cajoled by the state to be part of this smear campaign against our fellow citizens.

In keeping with our solemn responsibilities, Tanzanian journalists including Kitenge and myself must strive to maintain the highest standards of journalistic ethics.

While it okay for reporters to work freely, be creative to earn extra income separate from their work, before engaging in such activities they should exercise mature professional judgement and consider the stakes they have in the irreplaceable good name of their profession noble.
Reporters should reject anything of value such as money that would put them in an awkward position and compromise their reporting in the eye of the public.
The world is painfully aware of the grim reality and unknown fate that the indigenous Maasai communities in Loliondo and Ngorongoro, as the government seems determined to further take away their land and lease it to investors.

As local Maasai elder recently confided to me such decision is ABSURD since it technically violate their basic right to life. The Maasai land rights, like the land rights of any other indigenous groups must be protected at any cost. MUST is the word.