M2 NewsDay | Friday December 17 2021 Brand MISA Zimbabwe @25: delivering stakeholder values on free expression BY TABANI MOYO I N the historic month of August, 25 years ago, a great brand, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe was birthed. It is therefore a humbling and gratifying experience to be at the helm of this institution of great exploits that has consequentially and exceptionally shaped the regulatory environment, media freedom, access to information and safety and security of the media both in Zimbabwe and without. In commemoration of this strategic milestone, MISA Zimbabwe re-affirms its commitment to retain the leadership mantle as it seeks to break new and higher ground in tackling the challenges of the future. The commemorations are instructive and of great importance in these complex times of the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted the facets of life that define humanity. Looking at the journey of the past 25 years, I’m glad to attest that MISA has survived, emerged as a market leader and a brand of strength through turning a multiplicity of challenges into opportunities. In its time of existence, the brand interfaced and intervened in the fragile and repressive regulatory frameworks, attacks on journalists, closure and bombing of newspapers, shrinking democratic space and changing communications ecosystems. Throughout, the organisation discharged itself beyond reproach, setting and taking the local media industry and regional standards to dizzy heights while at it. But the most uncelebrated, yet defining achievements have been the organisation’s ability to incubate and facilitate for the birth of its sister organisations that have assumed their own life in the process. This speaks to being the key player in the establishment of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ), The Media Centre, the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) and the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (Now Media Monitors Zimbabwe). In recognition of the role played by the organisation, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), awarded MISA Zimbabwe with special recognition as a strategic friend of the media on the 26th of September 2008. This was in recognition of the splendid work done by the organisation in assisting the union with the setting up of its secretariat. Further, the organisation has been instrumental in the lead- Tabani Moyo ership development for the industry through grooming the young leaders of tomorrow. The impact of MISA Zimbabwe has not remained landlocked by virtue of the country’s physical location. It is now home to the Regional Secretariat hence the brand strength has far reaching impact beyond our borders. To this, its contribution to the solution of the challenges impacting on human kind, has been acknowledged as it is now part of the governing boards of the Southern Africa Internet Governance Forum (SAIFG); IFEX, a global network of more than 100 organisations defending freedom of expression, and the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD). As such it is key to note some of the indelible footprints from the long journey travelled thus far: • A 100% success story through the Media Defence Fund. • Pioneered the multistakeholder approach towards internet governance in September 2015. • Led stakeholders towards the establishment of the Police & Media Action Plan in 2016. • Successfully challenged criminal defamation in 2016. • Successfully challenged a week long internet shutdown in 2019 through the courts. • Influenced the explicit guarantee of rights to privacy, media freedom & freedom of expression and access to information in the Constitution through Sections 57,61 and 62, respectively • Challenged the police to stop attacks on the media through the courts in 2020 leading to a court interdict to that effect. • Pioneered the community radio movement in Zimbabwe and the subsequent literacy on the subject matter. • Influenced the current opening up of the broad- casting industry having run the Free the Airwaves Campaign for almost two decades challenging Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s monopoly. • Built a strong access to information movement in Zimbabwe which brings together citizens to actively participate in the law making processes and holding the government accountable. • Hosting the regional secretariat, thereby influencing the agenda for media freedom, access to information and expression in the region and beyond, among others. As the brand MISA casts its eyes far into the future, 10 years ahead, it does so with the aim to address the complexities borne of the ever-changing contexts in the realm of policy; media economics; expression online and offline; mis/ dis-information; safety and security of the media; sustainability of the media, and media capture, among other challenges. This is due to the confluence of a multiplicity of factors such as the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic; stifling of online expression under the guise of controlling the pandemic by the majority of Southern African countries. In addition, a lingering and permeating threat exists on the future of the media in the context of the intricate challenges posed by pandemics, climate change, natural disasters, gender mainstreaming and the role of big tech companies vis-à-vis the quest for supporting and defending a resilient media. Faced with these existential challenges, MISA Zimbabwe thus remains guided and inspired by the long-standing principles of its founding fathers and mothers who met 30 years ago and articulated their vision and value systems, which culminated in the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration in 1991. Inspired by these principles and values, MISA Zimbabwe’s Board of Trustees chairperson, Cris Chinaka on the 20th of August 2015, said: “In rebranding MISA Zimbabwe, we are inspired by three strategic and visionary outcomes that will see the organisation evolving into a knowledge institution, market leader and an expertise-centred institution.” In the next 10 years, the organisation is focused on remaining as a continuously learning organisation that leads on many fronts. We thus aim to be a cut above the rest as we stand tall on the shoulders of the giants that successfully marshalled the organisation through complex times over the years through their diligent leadership, at both secretariat and governance levels. The organisation is thus anchored on three major guiding pillars: thought leadership; expertise and market leadership. Happy silver jubilee! To many more years of leadership! _________________________ Tabani Moyo is the regional director of MISA and national director of MISA Zimbabwe. MISA Zimbabwe@25: the milestones From page M1 Media Defence Fund The Media Defence Fund falls within the scope of the Legal Support programme area. This programme is designed to offer legal assistance to journalists , media workers and institutions, that are either arrested or detained during the course of their lawful professional duties, and even extends to legal representation if the matter goes to trial. MISA Zimbabwe has over the years recorded numerous successes in the cases where it deployed lawyers to offer legal representation to journalists or media workers that would have been arrested or unlawfully detained during the course of their work. In the majority of the cases, deployed lawyers have always managed to secure the release of the detained journalists, with very few of the cases going to trial. A recent case is that of Tawanda Muchehiwa, nephew of ZimLive editor, Mduduzi Mathuthu, following his arrest when the police raided Mathuthu’s home in Bulawayo on 30 July 2020. Muchehiwa had been missing since 30 July 2020 following his arrest by the police, with his then known location being that of having been in their custody at Bulawayo Central Police Station. Following a habeas corpus application by MISA Zimbabwe through lawyer Nqobani Sithole, High Court judge Justice Makonese, on 1 August 2020, ordered the police to investigate Muchehiwa’s whereabouts and produce the outcome to the Magistrates Court at Tredgold Building in Bulawayo within 72 hours. Muchehiwa was later found that evening on 1 August 2020 around 2200hr after he was ‘dropped off’ at his place of residence by suspected state security agents. On 4 August 2020, Muchehiwa subsequently appeared before the magistrates court in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo in compliance with the directive by the High Court judge. NewsDay journalist Rex Mphisa and Zimpapers sales representative Charles Marerwa were on 27 August 2020 acquitted by magistrate Ania Chimweta on charges of violating the COVID-19 regulations. The magistrate ruled that the State had failed to prove its case beyond any reasonable doubt. Mphisa and Marerwa were arrested on 15 May 2020 in Dulivhadzimu, in Zimbabwe’s southern border town of Beitbridge. Mphisa and Marerwa, who were on free bail, were represented by lawyer, Jabulani Mzinyathi, who was engaged by MISA Zimbabwe. impact on the exercise and enjoyment of the right to media freedom, freedom of expression and citizens’ right to access to information as provided for in the Constitution. Free the Airwaves Campaign The licensing of the first ever community radio stations and commercial television stations is in line with the African Charter on Broadcasting’s three-tier system, comprising public, commercial and community broadcasting , that MISA Zimbabwe, together with the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS), has incessantly been advocating for over the years. This is the result of our protracted and sustained Free the Airwaves Campaign, during which MISA Zimbabwe established preparatory Community Radio Initiatives throughout the country. For instance, the newly licensed Ntepe Manama Community Radio Trust in Matabeleland South province, is one such initiative. • 2016, granted an application by MISA Zimbabwe seeking confirmation of the fact that criminal defamation was no longer part of the law. MISA had argued that Section 96 Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (which had been used to arrest several journalists), was invalid from the time of its enactment in 2004. Criminal defamation was then effectively struck off the statutes. • 21 January 2019 ruled that the Minister of State in the President’s Office Responsible for National Security does not have the authority to issue any directives in terms of the Interception of Communications Act. The court ruling followed a court challenge mounted by MISA Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights following directives issued by Minister Owen Ncube to shut down the Internet in Zimbabwe. The Interception of Communications Act is one of 12 Acts directly administered by the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. The President does have the right to assign any other Cabinet members to act on his behalf to administer any of these 12 Acts. Justice Tagu agreed with Advocate Matinenga’s submission that the Minister was not assigned with any authority to issue such directives by the President. He ruled that the directives issued in the minister’s name be set aside as they were unlawful. The decision, allowed mobile network operators and Internet service providers to restore full Internet access including access to social media applications and websites. Access to applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook had been restricted since the morning of Tuesday, 15 January 2019. • 24 April 2020 ordered the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services to promote citizens’ access to information pertaining to the Coronavirus. This followed an urgent chamber application that was filed by MISA Zimbabwe, represented by lawyer Rudo Magundani of Scanlen and Holderness. The Ministry of Health and Child Care and Self regulation of the media The first move in dismantling the restrictive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act which was the weapon of choice in harassing, threatening and arresting journalists which saw the closure of the Daily News and The Tribune newspapers, was through the establishment of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe. MISA Zimbabwe spearheaded the nationwide mobilisation and consultations with key stakeholders together with the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists on the need for self-regulation of the media. This culminated in the massive endorsement of self-regulation of the media as a counter measure against the then statutory Media and Information Commission. The endorsements gave birth to the VMCZ as the self-regulatory media body amid the increasing crescendo for the repeal of AIPPA and the subsequent death of the statutory Media and Information Commission. Court cases Another key component of the Legal Support programme, is that of strategic litigation. This is informed by MISA Zimbabwe’s monitoring of media freedom violations and issuance of alerts and analysis of the legal operating environment and the laws that are in place and how they the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, were cited respectively as first and second respondents in the matter. • Manzunzu on 20 April 2020 ordered the police and other law enforcement agencies charged with enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown not to arrest, detain or interfere “in any unnecessary way” with the work of journalists. This followed an urgent chamber application that was filed by MISA Zimbabwe (first applicant), and journalist Panashe Makufa (second applicant), against the arrests and harassment of journalists by police officers during the lockdown. The Commissioner-General of Police and the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) were cited, respectively, as the first and second respondents in the application filed by the applicants’ lawyer Chris Mhike. • vour of MISA Zimbabwe interdicting Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and other cited respondents from implementing a police warrant seeking information on the mobile phone operator’s transactions. High Court judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi granted the provisional order in Harare on 24 July 2020 in favour of the applicants, MISA Zimbabwe, first applicant, and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), second applicant. The court challenge was mounted to protect the right to privacy as provided for in terms of Section 57 of the Constitution. These milestones and achievement, among several others, have seen MISA Zimbabwe assuming the regional leadership mantle following my election as Chairperson of the MISA Regional Governing Council while national director, Tabani Moyo, now also doubles as the Regional Director. The occasion of our 25th anniversary thus gives us opportunity to reflect and chart and pave the path on where we want to get – how and when. Suffice to say, it has been a long arduous journey fraught with challenges and immense leadership responsibilities, but nonetheless with the results to show for it, 25 years later! ____________________________________ Golden Maunganidze, Chairperson MISA Regional and MISA Zimbabwe.