A media alert can come in the form of a simple ‘alert‘, where the principle of media freedom has been violated and MISA-Swaziland feels compelled to write a short ‘alert’ to record and publicise the violation. A recent example of an alert is when a local editor was ordered by a high court judge to pay E200,000 ($US21,000) within three days or else go to jail for two years. The editor had written two articles about Swaziland’s judiciary which, in MISA-Swaziland’s view, constituted legitimate comment and analysis, particularly considering Swaziland guarantees freedom of speech and media freedom under Section 24 of its constitution. In this case, however, the court found the editor guilty of ‘scandalising the courts’. MISA-Swaziland’s advocacy on this case, based on our alerts, helped to generate a significant amount of local and international support.
Another type of media alert is a ‘statement‘, where MISA-Swaziland — usually basing its opinion on a recent media alert — will issue a statement outlining our position on a certain matter. For instance, when the local newspaper The Times of Swaziland wrote an editorial arguing for the liberalisation of the country’s airwaves, MISA-Swaziland wrote a statement in support of that newspapers postion.
MISA-Swaziland will write analytical articles from time to time, exploring a topic in more detail. An analysis could be viewed as part ‘alert’ and part ‘statement’. An example of a MISA-Swaziland analysis is an article about the difficult conditions currently faced by Swazi journalism students.
MISA-Swaziland conducts and facilitates training sessions for journalists and editors, as well as occasionally running training media training sessions for other groups, such as civil society members.
In 2013 MISA, in partnership with a human rights NGO called COSPE, is training journalists on how to improve their coverage of elections. The training is ‘on the job’, meaning the journalsits are taken into the field where they can put into practice the theory they have learned. Here is an article written by one of the journalists after she attended one of the training sessions.
MISA-Swaziland conducts regular research on matters of media freedom, freedom of speech, and on more specific topics such as how the local media is reporting on the national interest story of HIV/AIDS and the pro-democracy movement.
MISA’s mandate requires us to work for a free, independent and diverse media sector. At the moment, in Swaziland, the media is far from free, independent and diverse. There is much work to do. Advocacy, therefore, is central to our existence.
MISA-Swaziland’s advocacy officer, Phakama Shili, leads the advocacy program, and works to build coalitions of people and organisations who will support MISA’s vision for a free media. A recent example of our advocacy work centred on the sentence imposed on Swazi editor Bheki Makhubu, who was ordered to pay E200,000 ($US21,000) or else go to jail for two years for writing two articles about the judiciary. In building support for Makhubu, MISA-Swaziland feels it is also building support for everyone who is now at risk of being fined or thrown in jail for making a legitamate comment in the public interest. MISA is driving a petition which aims to raise awareness of the fragile state of Swazi media.