M4 NewsDay | Friday December 17 2021

New strategies key in the
Regional media
advocacy unimaginable struggle and defence of
without MISA





HERE is so much to think about
and to be appreciative of – when
looking back at what was – and celebrating what is – 25 years of the
Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter.
For me, the most important thing, is the
recognition that the media advocacy landscape of southern Africa is unimaginable
without the presence of the various chapters of the MISA.
Together as chapters, the MISA regional network is an institution that is part of
the DNA of the region’s freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom terrain.
While the chapters are able to act independently of each other, and focus their
programming based on the needs and issues within their localities, there is power in regional solidarity. The advocacy initiatives built through the MISA network is
what makes the work so powerful and the
institution’s presence so necessary.
You only have to think back to the SADC
Journalists Under Fire campaign conceptualised two decades ago and primarily based
on the mounting violations against journalists, putting them, and particularly, the
Zimbabwean media at risk.
At the time it was ground-breaking for
southern Africa.
What made the SADC Journalists Under
Fire stand out, was that it was strong, emotive and it personalised the plight of journalists. More importantly, it was based on
the consolidation of MISA's media monitoring work and shaped the advocacy component that was supported by the research
and monitoring that MISA chapters were
Through the regional secretariat, the
work was elevated and built into a strong,
solid and powerful campaign. This further
strengthened MISA's position to take cases
to the African Commission on Human and
Peoples Rights.
In fact it helped transform MISA’s relationship with two of the most decisive continental bodies at the time – the Southern
African Development Community and the
AU through the annual ACHPR sessions.
This relationship with the ACHPR continues to be cultivated by the current secretariat of MISA Zimbabwe and this will hold
it in good stead as we move into the future.
Bringing the issues to these two bodies is
something that was and still is so successfully managed by MISA Zimbabwe. In fact
strategic litigation and the strong continental advocacy and lobbying which the organisation is so successful at, is a strength that
must be constantly built upon.
The very existence of MISA Zimbabwe as
an organisation that builds on legal challenges around media freedom and freedom
of expression combined with strong continental advocacy and lobbying campaigns is
critical for the attainment of justice in the
But with this work comes responsibility.
That responsibility is twofold. Advocacy that brings about change is a long term
commitment that requires persistency and
consistency. That is not always understood
or acknowledged.
While it may look as though the recent
granting of additional radio licences happened overnight, it is the result of commitment that built upon work started two decades ago when the Broadcasting Services
Act (BSA), came into being.
Through the tireless effort of MISA Zimbabwe and numerous strategic partners
– a process that eventually gave birth to
ZACRAS (Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations), the airwaves have
opened. While we know that even this process has it flaws, it is certainly an improvement on what existed before.
Many of the struggles we are grappling

Reyhana Masters
with today are similar to the battles that I
remember fighting when I was still chairperson of MISA Zimbabwe.
Being the chairperson of the MISA Zimbabwe chapter in the early 2000s and working with colleagues through the highly politicised, volatile and what was the onset
of exceedingly polarised media landscape,
was challenging.
When I reflect on that period, I realise
that it taught me so much. It was essentially
a life transforming experience.
It provided me with an aha! moment, during which I clearly understood that the battle for media freedom and freedom of expression is not for the faint hearted. More
than anything, I realised that strong and effective leadership is an integral part of the
fight for justice.
To charter a course that upholds media
freedom and freedom of expression, there is
a need for leadership that embodies integrity, courage, fortitude and wisdom.
Those who take on positions in the governing council have to support a secretariat that works tirelessly, often with little reward or recognition and needs to be bolstered by the confidence and trust of the
They work under difficult circumstances in a precarious environment. So a strong
and effective leadership is an integral part
of the fight for justice.
MISA Zimbabwe as well as the various
chapters, cannot effect change around media freedom, freedom of expression and
access to information on their own. There
should be acknowledgment that there is
much goodwill – nationally, regionally and
It is up to the leadership at both - secretariat and board level - to continue with these
collaborative process in a way that will contribute to a lasting and impactful trajectory
that can be traced back to MISA and the elevated position it holds.
Congratulations on 25 years of commendable work and all the best for the next 25.

Reyhana Masters is a journalist and
the first female (former) chairperson
of MISA Zimbabwe and a passionate defender of media freedom, access to information and freedom of expression.

S the Media Institute of Southern
Africa (MISA Zimbabwe) turns 25
years, there are key milestones
that the organisation should
strive to celebrate while leveraging on lessons learnt from bygone years.
Key reflections and critical decisions have
to be made to continue the struggle for media freedom and the defence of free expression in Zimbabwe and in the region.
I will reflect on my role within the MISA
Zimbabwe family when I took up leadership roles when I was elected MISA Zimbabwe deputy chairperson in 2004 and later
took over the chairmanship of the organisation in 2007 up until 2012.
It is during this time that Zimbabwe faced
its critical moments that defined the country as the most repressive in the region due
to its fascists media laws that were used to
shut down independent media while the
same laws were used to silence critics and
arrest hordes of journalists on trumped up
It is during these trying times that I had
the privilege of being the only chairperson
to have worked with three different directors namely; Takura Zhangazha, Rashweat
Mukundu and Nhlanhla Ngwenya.
Trying times these were.
The key challenges during the period I
joined the MISA Zimbabwe leadership was
to deal with challenges around the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
(AIPPA), that was being used to arrest and
intimidate the media fraternity.
Thinking outside the box, my board, and
the secretariat, was instrumental in setting
up the Media Defence Fund, and the Provincial Advocacy Committees that were critical in coordinating the work of MISA Zimbabwe. The committees were incorporated into the MISA Zimbabwe structures and
were officially recognised as key cogs in the
fight for media freedom and freedom of expression.
It is during that time that MISA Zimbabwe
also played a pivotal role in the setting up
and establishment of critical and vital media support organisations that played an
important role in supporting MISA Zimbabwe’s advocacy for a free media in Zimbabwe.
Organisations that were established include the Media Centre, Media Monitoring
Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ), Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) and the Voluntary
Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ), where
I am currently employed as the executive
These organisations played a complimentary role and targeted sectors of the media
to lobby and advocate for reforms. The organisations increased the voices for media
reform and created partnerships and unity
in the different media spheres.
It is also during this period that we expanded our lobby and advocacy to a regional level through participating in the African Commission on Human and Peoples
Rights (ACHPR) sessions where we interacted face to face with government officials
and highlighted human rights challenges
facing citizens and the media in Zimbabwe.
MISA Zimbabwe during that time was a
thorn in the face as the organisation was always on a collision course with government
due to the former’s highlighting of media
violations perpetrated by the government.

At that time I took my advocacy and lobby for media freedom to a higher level as I
was elected into the MISA Regional Governing Council (RGC), where I later became the
Deputy Chairperson and a member of the
Management Committee.
Later, over the years, I was appointed into
the MISA Trust Fund Board (TFB), the highest decision making body in the region, a
position I hold to date.
During my tenure as chairperson, it was
more like a cat and mouse relationship
where even the talk in government circles
was to equate MISA to a regime change institution, but that perception has changed
now as MISA Zimbabwe is now consulted
on a variety of media reform issues and still
continues in its lobby and advocacy for media freedoms.
The focal and rallying point during my
tenure as chairperson, were the calls for
the unbanning of the popular Daily News
that had earlier been banned under the infamous AIPPA. The Tribune, another independent paper, also suffered the same fate
as the Daily News as government increased
attacks against independent media.
One very key success during my tenure
was to ensure that we did not have journalists wallowing in prison at any given time
as a result of the many cases of arrests that
were taking place during that time.
It is also during that time that the Media
Lawyers Network was established together with the capacity building of lawyers to
providing legal aid to journalists in distress.
It was during that time that the MISA Zimbabwe Media Defence Fund was strengthened and fortified in order to protect journalists who were being purged through arrests.
It is during this period that we also began
campaigns around the unbanning of the
Daily News. Protests against the Daily News’
banning were popularised during this period as campaigns were held inside and outside Zimbabwe.
The struggle has been long and protracted and MISA Zimbabwe will need to redefine strategies to continue the fight and rid
the region of bad media policies and laws
that infringe on citizens’ rights.
The struggle is still on……Aluta Continua!
Loughty Dube is a former chairperson of
MISA Zimbabwe and currently executive
director of the Voluntary Media Council
of Zimbabwe. He also serves on the MISA
Regional Trust Fund Board.

Loughty Dube

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