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Journalists Under Fire - East and Southern Africa

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In May 2003, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) - in partnership with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) - launched a campaign to call attention to the dangers journalists face in East and Southern Africa. This campaign will take place every year on May 3. In 2003, an information packet (available in printed as well as electronic format) informed journalists about the need to provide practical support for victims of attacks and advocated for a media environment characterised by free expression. Conducted in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, the campaign is designed to inform journalists - and, ultimately, the public - about violations of the right to freedom of expression.
Communication Strategies: 

The 2003 Journalists Under Fire campaign offered an information package detailing the state of free expression in each of the 11 member countries of the SADC. Included in the package was also a report on the representation of women in the media in Southern Africa. The study analysed 25,100 news items broadcast and printed during September 2002 by 116 media in 12 southern African countries. It concluded that the media in southern African give very little space to the views of women, and, when it comes to subjects such as politics, economy, sport or agriculture, their voice is virtually unheard. The individual national reports were launched in the respective countries on May 3.


As part of the 2003 campaign, journalists were encouraged to participate in efforts to promote media freedom and freedom of expression in this region by using these materials. To faciliate this process, texts, graphics, and illustrations were made available electronically.


Products of the 2003 campaign also included monthly electronic updates on action alerts in response to violations of the rights of journalists in the SADC region; articles detailing the personal experiences of victims of press-freedom violations; a graphic barometer made available to print media for publication; and legal support to victims of press-freedom violations.


Each year, new advocacy elements will be added to the campaign.

Development Issues: 

Journalism, Freedom of Information, Rights.

Key Points: 

According to MISA, the media in East and Southern Africa is under constant attack from governments, institutions, and individuals who wish to restrict the free flow of information. For example, in 2002, 27 journalists were beaten, 4 were bombed, 45 were detained, 38 were threatened, and 40 were censored.

MISA's support to victims of media freedom violations has previously taken the form of email action alerts. Organisers realised that practical follow-up is required to continue the momentum and opportunities created by action alerts. In an effort to identify additional strategies, in July 2002, MISA convened a core group of working journalists who were previous victims of media freedom and freedom of expression violations. The core group was asked to discuss the feasibility of establishing support teams in various towns and cities across the SADC region, who would be trained to support journalists who need immediate assistance (moral, legal and material support). The core group was also asked to explore an additional system of classification for action alerts, which would classify some alerts as high-priority status. This core group helped design the campaign and establish its strategies.

Partner Text: 

MISA and SADC.

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