“December 10 is an occasion to celebrate human rights victories over the past year and to focus attention and pressure on our governments to address human rights violations.”So said MISA at a statement signed by its ChairpersonModise Maphanyane.
The regional organisation allianed itself to this year’s slogan, ‘Human Rights 365’, and it argued that the slogan is encompassing the idea that we should not just focus on human rights once a year, but should be vigilant about protecting human rights everyday.
“Violators of human rights do not discriminate about when they violate human rights, and we should not limit our vigilance and advocacy to a single day.” Said MISA adding that in 2014 they witnessed the violation of journalists’ rights as they faced threats, verbal and physical assault, arbitrary detention, and criminal charges.
In particular MISA condemned the human rights violations perpetrated against journalists in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe who were physically assaulted this year for doing their job and exercising their right to freedom of expression.
“We urge governments to hold accountable the perpetrators”. MISA said.
They specially remembered editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, who were unduly imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression in Swaziland earlier this year.
“Their continued incarceration is a travesty of justice and a clear indication that the notion of a constitutional democracy in Swaziland remains but a dream. It is equally unconscionable that citizens and governments of southern Africa have not come together to exert pressure on the government of Swaziland for its on going repression of its citizens.” Said MISA.
The regional media body had however, recognised strides made by the Malawian Government’s adoption of a Policy on Access to Information (ATI) in January 2014, the Mozambique Parliamentary Assembly’s recent approval of an ATI Bill last month and the recent High Court ruling in Zambia that found Section 67 of the Penal Code unconstitutional.
MISA further expressed their hope that the developments would pave the way for enacting ATI legislation in Tanzania and Malawi, as well as the systematic removal of insult, sedition and criminal defamation laws from the statute books.
“We renew our call on the governments of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia to expedite the adoption of ATI laws in their countries and reiterate the recent statement by United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s calling for guarantees for freedom of information and media in the UN’s next set of global development goals.” Said MISA.
For over 20 years MISA has worked to promote the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and access to information throughout southern Africa, and we remain committed to fighting for a safe environment conducive to the unimpeded exercise of these rights.