To make headway in addressing this pressing
issue, a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder, and
multifaceted strategy is necessary.

Journalists often find themselves as targets in
the run-up to elections due to their integral role
in the coverage of political events.
As such, it is the responsibility of governing
authorities, including Electoral Management
Bodies (EMBs) to discharge their roles with
impartiality and also play a more prominent
role to safeguard journalists, particularly during
electoral campaigns.
Additionally, authorities must conduct thorough
investigations into all attacks against journalists
that may have occurred prior to the official
commencement of campaigns.
Almost two thirds of the countries in the region
are scheduled to hold elections within the next
two years (i.e., 2023 and 2024).
It is anticipated, based on past experience, that
such events will coincide with an upswing in the
number of attacks directed towards journalists,
both in the physical and virtual sense.
Compounding this is the multifaceted nature
of the issues surrounding online disinformation,
which presents a formidable challenge to society,
particularly during election periods.
Regrettably, instead of collaborating with
stakeholders to address the infodemic, the
majority of governments have resorted to a
knee-jerk reaction of over-regulating the media
space and implementing punitive measures
against journalists and media outlets.
In 2022, two SADC member states, Angola (4)
and Lesotho(5), held general elections. In Angola,
the run-up to the elections was marred by
reports of attacks and harassment of journalists
covering campaign events.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
reported on attacks against Isabel Makitoko,
António Sapalo and Wilson Capemba.
A correspondent for the United States (US)
Congress-funded Voice of America was also
reportedly detained for three hours while on

assignment to cover a protest against electoral
irregularities ahead of the elections.
The reports of biased coverage by the media,
as confirmed by both the Angolan Journalists
Union (SJA) and the Angolan Regulatory Body for
Social Communication (ERCA),(6) are particularly
These have prompted calls for even further
regulations on the media in an environment
where a plethora of laws exist that already
undermine media freedom, as well as the
rights to freedom of expression and access to
Relatedly, Zimbabwe held by-elections in a
number of wards and constituencies in 2022 and,
in keeping with established patterns, instances
of media violations showed a corresponding rise.
In 2021, a non-election year, the Zimbabwe
chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa
(MISA Zimbabwe) documented 21 incidents of
physical attacks perpetrated against journalists.
Subsequently, this number escalated by around
80 percent to reach 37 in 2022.
Given that a national election is slated for the
latter half of 2023, there exists a legitimate
concern that acts of aggression towards
journalists will escalate.
On the other hand, Lesotho’s high-stakes
election, held against the backdrop of uncertainty
surrounding the passing of electoral reforms
and fears of further instability, was conducted
smoothly in October 2022 with no incidents of
attacks on journalists reported.
This may be attributed to the investment made
in preparing the media for election coverage
through collaborations between the MISA
Lesotho chapter, the Lesotho Communications
Authority (LCA), and the Independent Electoral
Commission (IEC).
Journalists and the media in Eswatini continue
to work under the most harrowing conditions.
In July 2022, Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho
Dlamini, upon the recommendation of AttorneyGeneral, Sifiso Khumalo, declared South African
online newspaper Swaziland News and its editor,
Zweli Martin Dlamini, terrorist entities, invoking
Eswatini’s feared Suppression of Terrorism Act
No.3 of 2008.(7)
Eswatini’s international and regional human
rights commitments, as well as the country’s
constitution and has been used excessively to
silence dissent, curb free expression and ban
certain political organisations.


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