Some Southern African journalists spend more time in the courtroom than in the newsroom, according to Kaitira Kandjii, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa). He referred to a flood of defamation cases, including five against the Times of Swaziland. “One Malawian journalist has over 30 pending legal cases.” But Kandjii said that the bright side was that there were no jailed journalists in Southern Africa at the time of his speech.
Speaking in Maputo on the eve of 3 May Media Freedom Day celebrations, Kandjii spoke at the launch of Misa’s annual survey of media freedom, So this is Democracy?
In the last 12 months, Misa had issued 181 alerts, mainly about violations of press freedom in 11 countries in Southern Africa –- with Zimbabwe accountable for 57 of the total. Lesotho, Angola and Swaziland were also registered as causes for concern.
“While the right to information is gaining momentum throughout the world, Africa’s state of access to information remains in limbo, with only two countries, South Africa and Uganda, having such laws,” added Kandjii.
The South African chapter, compiled by Raymond Louw, lists nine alerts for violations of free speech during 2007, and four victory alerts. Among the negatives are police manhandling photographers and a gag order against the Mail & Guardian; the positives included judicial rulings that two court cases could not be in camera, but open to the media.