MISA calls for SADC governing heads to improve media freedom and access to information during 10th Civil Society Forum
In July 2014, MISA successfully lobbied for the 10th Civil Society Forum to adopt a resolution calling on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to improve freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information by: reviewing and reforming relevant protocols and instruments; increasing media diversity; increasing access to social and community media; and making it easier to disseminate information to communities in need.
The 10th Civil Society Forum was held in Harare, Zimbabwe between 27 and 30 July 2014. MISA joined other civil society groups organised under the three member organisation of the Apex Alliance – the Southern Africa Trade Co-ordination, Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa and the Southern African Development Community Council of NGOs – to deliberate on the progress of and challenges facing the SADC and to produce calls of action to be considered at the forthcoming 34th Summit of the Heads of State and Government.
MISA’s priority during the forum was to ensure the passing of a declaration calling on the SADC heads of government to commit to specific actions that will improve freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information in the region. The resolution passed was part of a broader declaration titled, THE SADC WE WANT: Acting together for accountability, peace and inclusive development, which formed a Declaration of intent and Call to Action to the SADC, Member States, civil society organisations and people of Southern Africa.
With one of the stated aims of the declaration being, “Civil Society Organisations must be strengthened to return voice and power to the people themselves,” the actions called for in the resolution include:
– Aligning the SADC Protocol on Culture, Information and Sport with Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the African Platform on Access to Information and other continental / international instruments.
– Reform the SADC Protocol on Culture, Information and Sport and the Declaration on Information Communication Technologies to take into account technological advancements in the media.
– Reintegrate a free and diverse media, including social and community media, into the broader regional development and democratization agenda.
– Committing to develop tools and platforms for disseminating information to communities in need.
In the same resolution, the civil society organisations involved committed themselves to develop civil society information portals and platforms to strengthen peoples’ engagement with policy-making processes.
During the forum, representatives agreed that whilst the southern African region is largely free of military conflict, we still face challenges, including high levels of poverty, unemployment, hunger and scarcity of access to resources. Representatives at the forum, however, were also encouraged by positive developments witnessed in come countries. In this spirit, MISA also joined the forum in passing the Declaration of Solidarity, which stated: “…we committed ourselves to the effective co-ordination of all these struggles by complementing, supporting and linking each other’s efforts, promoting just and democratic values, and advancing the popular aspirations of our people.” The Declaration also outlines the establishment of a five-member SADC Solidarity Task Team, whose role will be to promote people struggle, coordinate solidarity and engage relevant structures under the guidance of the Apex Alliance.
MISA Regional Director, Ms Zoe Titus, attended the forum and said, “MISA takes very seriously its role as the leading advocate for freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information in southern Africa.
“It is our mission to ensure all citizens of the region can access these rights and we will continue to participate meaningfully in platforms like the Civil Society Forum to hold governments accountable and call on them to make the changes needed for a southern Africa that is conducive to free expression and media freedom and where all citizens can access the information they need to make informed decisions.”