raditional media on
the continent, indeed, the world, is in
a state of flux as it is
under both political
and economic siege.
Direction is being desperately sought in a
world reeling from disruption. Media houses
across the region are having to contend
with low performing economies, shrinking newsrooms, poor working conditions
against increasing costs, reduced advertising revenue, drastically reduced print
runs, stiffer competition, hostile governments, constricting media legislation and
to top it all, increasing corruption and
unethical behaviour within the sector itself.
Audiences are being captured by news
downloaded off social media platforms
that offer content at a dizzying pace
packaged in a format that appeals to diverse audiences and can be consumed
in seconds. The media is having to find
relevance in a world mesmerised by
technology and more engaged with
news on social media platforms, be it
real or fake. News is being shared at
lightning speed and by the time it is refuted, it has crossed borders and even
Building, and in some cases reviving,
good solid investigative journalism to
ensure sustainability and relevance is
both a solution and an obstacle. Often
the investigative stories highlight corruption in the public sector, or the finger
points at public officials, which brings
the media into direct confrontation with
governing elites. The media then are under direct threat from people willing to
abuse their power.
The contestation between States and the
media sector has intensified on the legislative front with governments in countries through the SADC region finding
insidious ways to curtail the influence
and reach of the media.
Through the guise of ensuring protection of citizens from computer related
crimes, governments across the region


So This is Democracy? 2016

have either enacted legislation or are tabling it, to regulate online content and
curb freedom of expression.
The onslaught against the media has
expanded and extended to include citizens who have exercised their freedom
of expression rights in different ways
and through a variety of actions in a
number of countries. This increase in
citizen agency has been met with harsh
and brutal reprisals by Governments.
A disconcerting development is the
shift by journalists on what used to be
agreed positions in the region. In both
Angola and Tanzania, journalists have
welcomed content in legislation that requires journalists to be licensed - a form
of authorisation to practice journalism
based on specific educational specifications. Sections of the media sector in the
two countries welcome this on the basis
that it will raise journalistic professional
standards. Is the idea catching on, in a
region where media freedom organisations use to pride themselves on fighting to remove all obstacles to freedom
of expression and freedom of the press?
Not all is lost, though.
A cause for celebration is the sustained
and vigorous 12 year campaign, spearheaded by MISA Malawi which finally
gave birth to an Access to Information
Act being passed by Parliament at the
end of 2016.
In Botswana, the 16th of March was a
historical day for the Lesbians, Gays &
Bisexuals of Botswana - LEGABIBO after the organisation won a court case in
which the State was instructed to register and officially recognize the sexual
minorities’ body.
The thawing of relations between the
Swazi government and the media was
another welcome change. This was in
part, due to the engagement by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Pansy Tlakula with government on
issues relating to freedom of expression,
media freedom and access to information.

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