At 12.21 pm on Sunday, May 10, 2020 I spoke to Mr Kagina Karashani about the progress of his father’s treatment, and we discussed visitation plans following the decision of Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) administration that due to the Covid-19 scare, only one person would be allowed to see him per visitation session.
He had been admitted to the hospital after his heart condition, which he had been battling for some years, deteriorated.
Six hours later, at 6.23pm I got a call from Mr Kagina. He was distraught. “There is sad news. Mzee has passed on,” he told me.
I knew Fili Karugahale Karashani as a jovial person, a family friend, a person full of jest and life, who, over drink, would insist on letting me know that he would one day write my obituary. I would typically retort that it would be me who would write his. And here I am, sadly doing so.
I also knew him as a complete professional, a laudable journalist and an able trainer.
Before I was appointed to head the Media Council (MCT) we traversed the country conducting training in journalism ethics, press club leadership skills, election reporting, investigative reporting and feature writing.
On March 30, 2012 Fili, as he was known to everybody, was the first person to be awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award.
It was conferred by President Jakaya Kikwete at the Diamond Jubilee. The award is organised by MCT and her partners as the pinnacle of the Excellence in Journalism Awards.
He was one of those Tanzanian media professionals whom you could not leave out when talking about accomplished journalism in the country.
This guru did journalism for five whole decades as a reporter, feature writer, trainer, researcher and consultant, both locally and internationally. In his own words, he was a child of the media.
TOP OF CLASS
Karashani began his career as an assistant bookshop manager in Dodoma in 1960, where he developed a habit of heavy reading, and later, writing.
He got an opportunity to attend a journalism workshop in Kiomboi, Singida region, organised by the Christian African Writing Centre which was based in Kitwe, Zambia and emerged at the top of the class in the final test.
This feat enabled him to get a scholarship to study journalism in Kitwe, being one of 30 young men and women from Southern, East and West Africa.
Upon graduating, he was recruited as a reporter for the newly established Target and Lengo newspapers which had been launched in collaboration by the Christian Councils of Kenya and Tanzania.
Two years later, his employer sent him for a diploma in journalism provided by the International Press Institute. Again, he emerged at the top of his class of thirty students from Southern and East Africa.
During graduation he was approached by the Taifa Leo editor and offered a job. That was in 1964. Three months later he was “poached” by the Daily Nation, another Nation Media Group publication. He was the first Tanzanian in the newsroom of the Nairobi based English paper. From there, he never looked back.
To Karashani, truth and accuracy is the bedrock of journalism. He told me that his news editor at the Daily Nation, Mike Chester, was his mentor who had profound influence on him as a professional. Chester would not accept a story which did not answer the questions “why” and “how”.
He covered civil strife, drought and famine in Wajir at the Somali/Kenya border. Some of the stories he wrote incensed the then Kenya’s Agriculture Minister, Jeremiah Nyagah, but because of the reporter’s adherence to truth and accuracy, the politician could not do much.
He also reported a myriad of difficulties in Daniel arap Moi’s Baringo constituency and Mr Moi was not amused.
Mr Moi was then the Internal Affairs Minister. He sent the police for him. When Fili arrived, Mr Moi looked at him in disbelief and shouted, “So this is Kaarachani! I thought he was an Indian! Kwenda! (Go away) ”. The initial threat had been to lock him up; but again, truth and accuracy carried the day.
When Tom Mboya was assassinated in Nairobi in 1969, it was Karashaniwho covered the traumatic event.
In 1967 Mr Karashani was transferred to Dar es Salaam. Most of the Tanzania front page stories appearing in Daily Nation at that period were written by him.
Upon returning to Nairobi, he rose through the ranks from reporter to chief parliamentary reporter, columnist, and later sub-editor.
Then he decided he needed more education. He joined the University of Dar es Salaam and graduated in 1978; then moved on to do a Masters at Queens University in Canada, graduating in 1981.
He later joined the Daily News before moving on to join the Tanzania School of Journalism (TSJ) as a tutor.
While at TSJ he, he also wrote internationally, including writing for the premier African news and feature publication, Africa Now, as well as the Inter Press News Agency (IPS).
This did not sit well with his employer, who viewed it as double employment. When the going got rough, he left the school and was almost immediately offered a job by IPS who stationed him in Rome, and later Harare as a bureau chief.
He returned to Tanzania in 1989 as founding editor of Business Times, a paper he launched together with his colleagues Richard Mbuguni, Narendra Joshi, Ali Chimbyangu and Richard Nyaulawa.
In 1991 he became the editor of Southern Africa Economist in Harare, before returning to Dar es Salaam to found The Guardian and later Sunday Observer. From 2005 to 2006 he worked at The Citizen as Training Editor.
In the last years of his life, the veteran journalist, who nurtured many Tanzanian journalists continued to train, especially in investigative skills, feature writing, as well as journalism ethics. He also provided consultancy services.
He contributed in professional journals, including MCT’s Scribes and The Global Journalist published by the School of Journalism at Missouri University in the US.
Among the books he wrote or contributed to were: To Write or Not to Write – Ethical Concerns in Journalism; Poverty Reporting – A Manual for Tanzanian Journalists; Media Ethics: Duties and Responsibilities; Feature Writing Manual and Investigative Journalism Practice in Tanzania.
He was once a secretary-general of the Kenya Union of Journalists and in the last years of his life, before illness put him down, he was chairman of the Tanzania Press Centre.
He was born on August 23, 1938 in Dodoma. His father was an Anglican pastor, Yakobo Kagina and his mother was called Blandina.
Karashani and his wife, Geraldina, were blessed with five children: Magezi, Baraka, Kagina, Koku and Bahati.
Baraka, who became a journalist like his father, died some years back. Upon his death, Karashani, observed that Baraka should have buried him and not the other way round.
“Baraka was always in such a hurry,” he said.
He is also survived by eight grand children.
May God rest the soul of Fili Karugahale Karashani in eternal peace. Amen.