Statement on World Press Freedom Day: MISA Head Office

Media Institute of Southern Africa, Regional Office, Namibia
Statement, 3 May 2013

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is deeply concerned about the rate at which media freedom and freedom of expression violations are occurring within the southern African region. We are particularly concerned that some of these violations have resulted in the death of journalists and others have resulted in severe body and psychological injuries.

In this regard, our hearts go out to the families of Daudi Mwangosi and Issa Ngumba, who lost these two journalists in September 2012 and January 2013 respectively. We know they are missed. Our hearts also go out to many other African and global journalists whose blood has been spilt because somebody somewhere did not understand – or chose todisrespect – the sacrosanct duty of a journalist in society.

Indeed, we carry in our thoughts many other journalists who have suffered injuries in the course of doing their work. Absalom Kibanda, a senior Tanzanian editor who was brutally attacked outside his Dar-es-Salaam home in March this year is but one of them.

The editor was attacked as he returned from work. His attackers, who are said to have been wielding guns, pulled him out of his vehicle and brutally assaulted him severely, leaving him unconscious. Kibanda had some of his teeth and nails plucked out and his left eye was pierced with a sharp object. He eventually lost the eye and has now been given an artificial eye.

Speaking with MISA ahead of World Press Freedom Day, Kibanda, who is recovering as an out-patient in Johannesburg, was in high spirits and showed tremendous signs of recovery, given the circumstances under which he was left by his attackers.

It is this kind of resilience that inspires us to work even harder in defending media freedom and freedom of expression within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and, by extension, across the rest of the world. We are energised by the many journalists, editors and media practitioners who continue to speak truth to power, putting their lives under considerable risk but unashamedly spurred on by the convictions of truth, fairness and accuracy.

In light of these developments MISA supports the United Nations (UN) Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. Research shows that a staggering number of journalists and media workers have been killed while performing their professional duties. It is reported that in nine out of ten cases, the perpetrators of these crimes are never prosecuted. Impunity, which may be understood as the failure tobring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice, perpetuates thecycle of violence against journalists and must be addressed.

As we commemorate this day, World Press Freedom Day, MISA is proud to have an association with journalists, editors, media practitioners and free expression activists who understand both their rights and responsibilities in society. We continue to encourage adherence to codes of ethics and to the maintenance of high standards of reporting, which is what those who consume our products and services expect, edition after edition.

However, these expectations cannot be fully met if the environment within which the practice of journalism must occur is unsafe or is being deliberately made hostile to media freedom and freedom of expression. In this regard, we call upon relevant stakeholders, including governments, law-enforcement agencies, policymakers and the public at large, to account for the critical importance of the media’s role in society wheneverdesigning interventions.

MISA is taken aback by cases of governments which fail to necessitate an enabling environment for media freedom and freedom of expression to thrive. We are taken aback by law enforcement agencies who allow themselves to be put in the pockets of powerful political or commercialinterests for purposes of stifling media freedom and freedom ofexpression. Some members of the public who are reluctant to appreciate the role of media in society, especially during protest actions, also take us aback as we experienced in South Africa at the beginning of this year.

As such, the safety of journalists in society is a collective matter. Hence, MISA will continue to build alliances and support efforts towards securing a safe environment for journalists, media practitioners and free expression activists.

Zoé Titus
MISA Regional Director



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