Articles

MISA: Regional Governing Council (RGC) Resolutions and Statement on Media Freedom Developments and Challenges in Southern Africa

 

Johannesburg, South Africa

July 29, 2012

We the governors of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), gathered at the MISA 2012 Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on July 29, 2012, at the Indaba Hotel and Conference Centre in Fourways, Johannesburg, South Africa, make the following statement:

 

We note with appreciation overall improvements in the media freedom and freedom of expression environment in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Such improvements are evident in the positive engagements in dialogue between Governments and media policy lobby groups, as well as greater recognition of the watchdog role that media is required to play. As much as we applaud governments for these efforts, we must take exception to reports of intimidation and physical attacks against media practitioners. We denounce and condemn any form of intimidation directed at media practitioners.

 

In an effort to ensure that media operate in a conducive environment, we commend the efforts of certain Governments to either repeal repressive laws that infringe on media freedom or develop policies that enhance access to information and freedom of expression. Among these:

 

a)       MISA wishes to recognise the positive actions by the new government in Malawi to facilitate the work of the media. Of importance is the repeal of Section 46 of the Penal Code and other laws that threaten the existence of independent media in that country. We also applaud the leadership's commitment to ensure that no media outlet is denied access to government advertisements. We are indeed pleased with the awarding of 15 broadcasting licenses, a true indication of the willingness to open airwaves in Malawi.

 

b)       In Namibia, MISA is encouraged with the implementation of Communication Act and the interaction of the Communications Regulations Authority of Namibia with media houses. Furthermore, MISA has welcomed the unbanning of Government advertisements in the local independent daily newspaper, The Namibian. Of concern, however, is the increase in civil defamation cases against the media when the office of the Ombudsman has proven itself as a workable alternative.

 

c)       MISA is particularly encouraged by the public commitment of the new coalition government of Lesotho to pass the Media Policy and Access to Information legislation within 100 days. We pledge our support to facilitate this bold commitment.

 

d)       In Swaziland, continuous infringements on citizens' rights to freedom of expression and media freedom remain a major concern for MISA. We appeal to the Government of Swaziland to adhere to the constitution of the country and the principles outlined in the Windhoek Declaration on a Diverse and Pluralistic African Press.

 

Of paramount importance to MISA are the efforts being undertaken by various stakeholders to ensure that Access to Information laws are enacted by SADC member states. MISA continues to emphasise that access to information is not a right of the media only, but a basic right and necessity for all citizens.   For this reason, we call on SADC Governments to show their commitment by signing the African Platform on Access to Information Declaration.

 

MISA is pleased with the efforts of the Zambian government and civil society to enact an Access to Information law within the coming months. Also, explicit provision on clauses of access to information, media freedom and the transformation of state owned media in the First Draft of the (new) Republican Constitution are noted and must remain in the new and final Constitution.

 

Progress in Botswana to have the an Access to Information law enacted deserves recognition. The governments in Lesotho and Malawi have also committed themselves to support the process of formulating this important legislation. As the United Republic of Tanzania undergoes constitutional reform, MISA would like to encourage both the government and the citizenry to take advantage of the process to make access to information by all people and media freedom a priority in the new Constitution.

 

Similarly, we hope that the Zimbabwean government will ensure that media freedom, freedom of expression and access to information are enshrined in the new Constitution. Still, we remain mindful of the plethora of legislation like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Official Secrets Act and the effect they have had on the democracy and development in Zimbabwe. Such laws have no place in a modern, progressive State that claims to promote democracy and sustainable development.

 

Despite the positive policy developments in the region, MISA remains concerned that governments are slow to take the bold step to transform state broadcasters into public broadcasters. We continue to lobby governments to guarantee editorial independence for broadcasters who are funded by the public so that they discharge  their services in a professional manner. In this regard, we will support efforts to put in place legal instruments that will facilitate these reforms.

 

We would also like to remind governments that the deadline imposed by the international Telecommunications Union to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting is approaching and that there is need to take concerted efforts to formulate policy and to be technically ready. In Botswana, MISA is concerned that the draft Botswana Communications Authority (BOCRA) Bill being debated in Parliament, does not make provision for a licensing regime for community broadcasting and has removed state media from being legislated by this authority. This is a grave omission, even compared to the previous Broadcasting Act of 1998.

 

As the leading institution engaged in media policy reform in southern Africa, we renew our commitment to   defending media freedom and freedom of expression in the region. We will continue to engage governments and relevant stakeholders as we continue to advance an appreciation that the right to freedom of expression is central to democracy and sustainable development.

 

Anthony Kasunda

Chairperson

Regional Governing Council

Modise Maphanyane

Chairperson

MISA Botswana

Joseph Ailonga

NGC Member

MISA Namibia

Daniel Sikazwe

Chairperson

MISA Zambia

Mzimkhulu Sithetho

Chairperson

MISA Lesotho

Alec Lushaba

Chairperson

MISA Swaziland

Njabulo Ncube

Chairperson

MISA Zimbabwe

Anthony Kasunda

Chairperson

MISA Malawi

Mohammed Tibanyendera

Chairperson

MISA Tanzania

 

 

Information for editors: MISA is a non-governmental organisation with members in 11 of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries. Officially launched in September 1992, MISA focuses primarily on the need to promote free, independent and pluralistic media, as envisaged in the 1991 Windhoek Declaration.   MISA seeks ways in which to promote the free flow of information and co-operation between media workers, as a principal means of nurturing democracy and human rights in Africa.

 

Enquiries:   Zoé Titus

Regional Director

Media Institute of Southern Africa

Private Bag 13386, Windhoek, Namibia

Tel: + 264 61 232975

Fax: +264 61 248016

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact US

#329 Samora Machel Avenue
Eastlea
Harare
Zimbabwe

Email:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mobile:
+263 772 887 506 ,
+263 772 407 742
+263 772 471 669