Silence may have been the most profound contribution to what we know about the Covid-19 epidemic in Tanzania. In fact, silence is the only truly sustainable measure to reduce the onslaught of questionable information emissions during the current infodemic. I hope to hear more of it.
I am not referring to silence about cases, deaths, lockdown measures, masks and the like. I’m referring to the silence of the media about the terrifying consequences of extreme and irrational lockdowns. Tanzania didn’t follow other poor countries, so they don’t have to face such consequences.
But there is silence in the mainstream media about the fact that Tanzania is peaceful, the economy is better than most, people are going to work, buying food in the market, agricultural production is little affected and children are going to school, and all because of their moderate response to Covid-19.
The media was all abuzz about what Tanzania’s President Magufuli said about praying and religious devotion, but not his advice about continuing to work, looking after families, sending kids to school and going to hospital in the event of any illness, including, but not limited to suspected Covid-19.
Negative impacts are reported in local Kenyan and Ugandan media, where rash curfews have been brutally enforced by police. But the mainstream media are not interested in that. We hear less about people persecuted, held in unhygienic and insanitary conditions, exposed to numerous health and other risks than we do about Magufuli questioning the efficacy of tests.
There have been substantial increases in food prices, shortages of staple foods, with many in Kenya and Uganda facing starvation. Kenyan schools will reopen next year, by which time state school pupils will have missed almost a year of schooling. Both countries struggle to maintain law and order and keep their economies afloat.
Uganda’s President Museveni is less widely quoted, but his only advice to his people was stay at home and pray, nothing else. There are no mainstream media articles about how astute Magufuli has been, nor mention of the moderate lockdown imposed in March, a more moderate one than their neighbors imposed, and for a few months, not indefinitely.
Does this selective silence in the mainstream media suggest a tacit admission that they were wrong about how poor countries should best address Covid-19, wrong to sneer at Magufuli for his exemplary response, while ignoring the chaos that resulted from neighboring countries’ slavish obedience to wealthy donors?