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HARARE, Zimbabwe — The Media Institute of Southern Africa (a regional conglomerate of nine national media watchdog chapters) is back in full operation at its new headquarters in Harare — Zimbabwe’s capital. It closed its first offices in Windhoek, Namibia, in 2015 before moving temporarily for three years to Lusaka, Zambia.
MISA draws its membership from Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Lesotho, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Recently appointed Regional Director Tabani Moyo, the executive director of MISA Zimbabwe, said: “We are a responsive high-impact network, whose critical importance is to galvanize the voices emerging from regional spaces toward a greater good. MISA is at the center of human-interest advocacy promoting access to information as a public good at regional, continental and international spaces.”
MISA regional’s governing council has a presence at the Internet Governance Forum as part of the coordinating committee on internet governance regulation. The MISA regional governing council is also part of the African Freedom of Expression Exchange, a continent-wide network of pressure and lobby groups, and IFEX, a global network of more than 120 organizations defending free expression.
The council also belongs to the 200-member Global Forum for Media Development, which defends journalism and expression. Moyo is a member of its executive committee and says that MISA is highly active in its roles in the international partner organizations and conferences. This ensures its advocacy issues remain on the agenda.
“MISA was moderator and rapporteur for the Africa Forum at the 30th Anniversary World Press Freedom Day Global Conference in Namibia and helped filter through the African perspective to review the Windhoek Declaration, which is now globally accepted. This led to what we now refer to as ‘Windhoek 30.’ Also, a realization that we need media literacy, access to information as a public good, and to hold big tech companies accountable and galvanize government and multiple stakeholders to ensure that the declaration and its principles remain alive and factor in changes brought about by the internet.”
MISA hosts the annual regional Internet Governance Forum, where different sector players meet. These include government representatives, companies, regulators, internet providers and law enforcement agents.
MISA also advocates for journalists’ safety during elections and sent a team to monitor elections in Zambia in August, where it condemned the government’s disruption of the internet. It has also twice criticized Eswatini’s shutting down of the internet during demonstrations for transparent governance. Next year, MISA plans to take its regional watchdog role to Lesotho’s elections.
The author is a media consultant and trainer based in Zimbabwe.