10 DECEMBER 2014, WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA – The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) today joins human rights advocates and citizens around the world in celebrating Human Rights Day. December 10 is an occasion to celebrate human rights victories over the past year and to focus attention and pressure on our governments to address human rights violations.
This year’s slogan is ‘Human Rights 365’, encompassing the idea that we should not just focus on human rights once a year, but should be vigilant about protecting human rights everyday. Violators of human rights do not discriminate about when they violate human rights, and we should not limit our vigilance and advocacy to a single day.
In 2014 we witnessed the violation of journalists’ rights as they faced threats, verbal and physical assault, arbitrary detention, and criminal charges.
MISA condemns the human rights violations perpetrated against journalists in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe who were physically assaulted this year for doing their job and exercising their right to freedom of expression. We urge governments to hold accountable the perpetrators.
Today we especially remember editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, who were unduly imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression in Swaziland earlier this year. Their continued incarceration is a travesty of justice and a clear indication that the notion of a constitutional democracy in Swaziland remains but a dream. It is equally unconscionable that citizens and governments of southern Africa have not come together to exert pressure on the government of Swaziland for its ongoing repression of its citizens.
Despite this, we are encouraged by the Malawian Government’s adoption of a Policy on Access to Information (ATI) in January 2014, the Mozambique Parliamentary Assembly’s recent approval of an ATI Bill last month and the recent High Court ruling in Zambia that found Section 67 (seditious intent) of the Penal Code unconstitutional. We hope these developments will pave the way for enacting ATI legislation in Tanzania and Malawi, as well as the systematic removal of insult, sedition and criminal defamation laws from the statute books. We renew our call on the governments of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia to expedite the adoption of ATI laws in their countries and reiterate the recent statement by United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s calling for guarantees for freedom of information and media in the UN’s next set of global development goals.
Human rights belong to everyone, and it is the duty of all of us to help protect them. For over 20 years MISA has worked to promote the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and access to information throughout southern Africa, and we remain committed to fighting for a safe environment conducive to the unimpeded exercise of these rights.
Chairperson, MISA Regional Governing Council (RGC)
Alexandre Neto Solombe
MISA South Africa
Deputy Chairperson, MISA Regional Governing Council
Chairperson, MISA Zambia
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (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 to play a leading role in creating an environment of media freedom and free expression that promotes independence, pluralism and diversity of views and opinions, media sustainability, competency and professionalism in the southern African region. MISA further aims to create an environment in which civil society beyond the media sector is empowered to claim information and access to it as inalienable rights and in which the resultant freer information flow strengthens democracy by enabling more informed citizen participation.