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MISA issues report on state of media freedom in Southern Africa

(MISA/IFEX) - The following is a MISA press release:


APRIL 30, 1999


Issued by: Jeanette Minnie (Executive Director)

The Media Institute of Southern African (MISA) is proud to present its
report on the state of media freedom in Southern Africa for 1998. Entitled
"So This is Democracy", the report lists over 160 separate incidents
involving various types of violations or important developments affecting
the media in southern Africa during 1998.

The report covers eleven countries in the region and includes an entry
giving the list of addresses of the various heads of state. The countries
covered by "So This is Democracy?" are: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi,
Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Setting the tone for the book, Prof Guy Berger from South Africa notes in
the regional overview that the true test of media freedom in society is
during times of high political tension and that during 1998, none of the
country's reported on by MISA truly passed the tests that confronted them.

"What gains were made in 1998, were not given on a plate, but were fought
for. What defences were held, were maintained not through weakness of
attacks but the resilience of the defenders. There was no shortage of
powerful forces seeking to silence journalists," says Prof Berger, who is
head of the department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University
in South Africa.

He warns that: "The verdict of 1999 - the last year of the century - could
be that there was a general setback in media freedom in the region. To avoid
such a judgement, divisions amongst journalists will need to be surmounted.
Journalists, for once, need not only to look at today's news, but to also
focus ahead on tomorrow."

An important addition to this year's "So This is Democracy?" is recognition
of the various victories secured by the media. However, out of all the
incidents listed, only 25 victories were recorded.

Zambia was the country with the most alerts issued against it in 1998, with
28. It maintains the dubious record it has held for three years in a row.
However, out of those alerts against Zambia, at least five victories were
recorded. Over half of the incidents recorded on Zambia concerned legal
action, testimony to litigious politicians who have no tolerance for an
independent media.

Tanzania had the second highest number of alerts, with 21. This should set
off some alarm bells since it's a sharp increase from the 12 alerts that
were issued against it in 1997.

One journalist, in Angola, was murdered in 1998, while 17 were imprisoned.
Other figures include 19 incidents where media workers or institutions were
attacked, 33 censored, 29 harrassed, nine threatened, and 66 incidents of
legal action, which involved either media workers or institutions facing
legal action or new legislation that was introduced or repealed.

"So This is Democracy?" will be launched officially on May 3, World Press
Freedom Day, in various centres in southern Africa.

To obtain a copy of "So This is Democracy?" please contact Gisella Itembu at
the MISA Regional Secretariat in Windhoek, Namibia, at phone: +264 61 260
394 or fax: +264 61 248 016.

To obtain copies in other centres, contact a local MISA chapter as listed

ANGOLA - Mr Jorge Silva.
Tel: +244 950 8153, Fax: +244 2 390 096

BOTSWANA - Mr Maphenyane Modise
Tel/Fax: +267 371 972 E-mail: [email protected]

LESOTHO - Ms Puleng Latela
Tel: +266 320 941, Fax: +266 310 560, e-mail: [email protected]

MALAWI - Ms Olive Malikebu-Matyola
Tel: +265 404 8020

SOUTH AFRICA - Mr Simphiwe Mdlalose
Tel: 27 11 403 4336, Fax: +27 11 403 4314, e-mail: [email protected]

SWAZILAND - Ms Sphiwe Nkambule
Tel: +268 40 44 078

TANZANIA - Mr Fred Ntobi
Tel/Fax: +255 51 119791, e-mail: [email protected]

ZAMBIA - Mr Katonga Chisupa
Tel: +260 1 237 881/848 229 929/36, Fax: +260 1 237 881
e-mail: [email protected]

ZIMBABWE - Ms Sarah Chiumbu
Tel/Fax: +263 4 757 820, e-mail: [email protected]

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