Media Alert / Speech

Speech by MISA director to Swazi civil society leaders

MISA-Swaziland Speech
Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, MISA-Swaziland National Director
7 March 2013

Let me take this opportunity to welcome you all to this media-training workshop. The Swaziland chapter of Media Institute of Southern Africa, as host of the training, is encouraged by your attendance and truly wishes to assist civil society leaders in getting their messages into the media and, therefore, into the minds and lives of Swazi citizens.

We wish to see civil society conveying their various viewpoints in a clear and rational manner, in a calm but impassioned way, so that ordinary Swazi citizens can understand what is at stake, and appreciate that a better life is possible.

MISA-Swaziland understands the difficulties faced by civil society in getting its messages into the media. We understand that the media is not as free, fair and balanced as we would like. We understand that words get twisted to suit certain agendas and we understand that some voices are simply suppressed. We also understand that none of these are reasons to give up.

As an NGO that supports all forms of freedom of expression, and in particular freedom of the media, MISA-Swaziland supports as many voices in the media as possible: government voices, civil society voices, citizens’ voices, business voices, royal voices, foreign voices, etc. etc. etc. – the list goes forever on.

What’s more, MISA-Swaziland supports approving voices as much as we support dissenting voices. We support the idea that people have the right to question and the right to be questioned; the right to criticise and the right to be criticised; and, if it happens, the right to offend and the right to be offended. Though we question the motives of someone who sets out to flatly offend.

Running alongside this, we support modern, realistic, proportionate and non-criminal libel and defamation laws. Yet we believe disclosure of information and news, in the public interest, should be the norm, and suppression and censorship should always be the very rare exception.

Moreover, in a constitutional democracy, people are free to dismiss and are also free to be dismissed. People are free to ignore while others are free to ignore you – this gets close to the essence of what freedom of speech is.

However, overall, it’s the debate that we want – the free exchange of views, arguments and ideas. This, we believe, is the starting point for a better country. This, the freedom to say what’s on your mind, without fear of reprisal, is what we want. This is the foundation – the bedrock – of a healthy, happy and prosperous society.

Now. It goes without saying that this is a big year. An election is looming, and the economy is faltering. Civil society members and leaders are more aware of this fact than many. MISA-Swaziland is not here to say what your messages should be, or whether you should take part in the election or not; MISA-Swaziland simply wants to see you get your messages into the media, as clearly and as concisely as possible.

We believe that, sometimes, with getting your messages into the media, less can be more. Which is not to say you should do less media, but rather, when you do engage with the media, keep your message short, sharp and to the point. “Stay on message,” as they say.

A good way of thinking about getting your message into the media is the ‘MBE method’.

M for message. B for because And E for example.

So, what is your Message?

Your message is important Because?

And what is an Example that supports your message?

Though not every interview of media statement should follow this method, I simply suggest it because the media are busy, and may not always be trained to the highest standards. If you keep your message short and simple, reporters may be more likely to report your views more accurately, without bias with less confusion.

All of this is about using the media to get through to the people you truly want to get through to: the ordinary Swazi citizen. And MISA understands that it will not always be easy, but this is no reason to lose hope. In fact, it is more reason to get creative with how you convey your various messages.

In summing up, MISA-Swaziland has become fond of a quote by former Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Michael Somare. It reads:

“Media freedom is my freedom. Media freedom is your freedom. Media freedom is our freedom. But with this freedom comes great responsibility.”

With this in mind, I do hope you find this workshop fruitful and that it assists in conveying your message to Swaziland and to the world.

This speech was delivered at Esibayeni Lodge in Swaziland on March 7 2013, to open a two-day MISA media training workshop for Swaziland’s civil society leaders.

For comments, please contact:
Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, MISA-Swaziland National Director

misa.nd@realnet.co.sz

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