Media Institute of Southern Africa, Regional Office, Namibia
Statement, 23 May 2013
Having gathered in Lusaka, Zambia on Saturday, 27 July 2013, for its annual general meeting, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) makes the following statement.
We wish to express grave concern over the escalation in cases of media freedom and freedom of expression violations across the SADC region, including restrictions on access to information.
In particular we strongly condemn the continued detention of Wilson Pondamali. We demand his immediate release to allow the legal process to take its course.
We have further noted that a number of processes to enact access to information laws have stalled in the region. We therefore call on the governments of Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zambia to expedite the adoption of access to information laws without further delay. We urge the government of Namibia to begin the process.
It concerns us that the government of Zimbabwe has failed to repeal or at least extensively amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and a range of other pieces of repressive legislation, which are inimical to the right of access to information provided for under the new Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Also worrying is the continued use of archaic laws that criminalize expression and the practice of journalism as well as limit broadcasting diversity as is the case in Swaziland and Botswana. We therefore urge the governments of Swaziland and Botswana to take positive action to expedite the enactment of legislation that embraces the value of free, diverse and independent media.
We also urge the President of South Africa not to sign into law the Protection of State Information Bill, which, in our view, undermines the right of access to information as guaranteed by the constitution of the country.
Besides decriminalization of expression and the right to access to information, MISA further implores SADC governments to bring to justice those implicated in attacks on media freedom, which have resulted in the death, maiming, beating and superfluous arrests, detention and/or charges against scores of journalists in the region. Attacks on and intimidation of journalists such as those that have occurred in Tanzania and Zambia can never be justifiable, especially in a democracy.
Recent events across the region point to increased threats to freedom of expression in cyberspace. These include the blocking of websites in Zambia, the banning of bulk SMS services in Zimbabwe, and the introduction of legislation seeking to impose restrictions online in the region.
We condemn, in the strongest terms, efforts aimed at inhibiting freedom of expression and access to information through ICT platforms.
The role of the media in society cannot be overemphasized. It is against this background that we demand that governments in the region take appropriate steps to create a safe environment for the media that engenders the free practice of journalism.
In this regard, MISA resolves to strengthen its commitment towards enhancing the adoption of access to information laws, the exercise of freedom of expression through ICTs, ensuring the safety of journalists, media practitioners and bloggers though positive engagements with governments, media policy lobby groups and the wider public.
Adopted at the MISA AGM in Lusaka, Zambia on Saturday 27 July, 2013
Regional Governing Council
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.