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Vusumuzi Sifile's blog

Southern Africa: Time to address legal, attitudinal impediments to press freedom

To: The Media Development Network within The Communication Initiative network

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Lilian Kiefer is the Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf).

Southern Africa: Time to address legal, attitudinal impediments to press freedom

As we reflect on the strides made in celebrating Press Freedom in Southern Africa, it is disheartening to note that there are still number of legal and attitudinal impediments from those in power and government hindering the full enjoyment of the freedom of the press.

Many countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region have seen an increase in the harassment, detention and outright banning of members of the press from undertaking their duties as the fourth estate and watchdog of those entrusted with state power and resources. This has made it difficult for citizens to freely send and receive information.

Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) believes that only when the press is free and citizens are allowed platforms to receive, send or share information can meaningful development that empowers the marginalised and poor to reduce poverty in their community be attained.

Recent developments in the region have shown that there is resistance to media freedom and diversity.

For example, PSAf notes with concern the continued stifling of media freedom in Swaziland, where Nation Magazine Editor Bheki Makhubu and lawyer Thulani Maseko have been incarcerated for close two months in relation to articles published in the Nation Magazine which were deemed contemptuous.

Promoting cultural advancement, community integration through radio

To: The Health Communication Social Network within The Communication Initiative - including the Market Place for International Development

From: Vusumuzi Sifile is Regional Manager for Communication and Knowledge Management at Panos Institute Southern Africa

In the past, traditional authorities across Southern Africa would send messengers to beat some drums, blow trumpets or unleash some smoke in order to communicate a message to their subject. The sound of the drum or the blowing of a certain type of smoke was believed to be enough communication for the community to understand the message, and take the necessary action.

However, this approach had a number of limitations, especially in terms of timeliness and geographical reach. Some messages would take too long to reach all the targeted recipients, and when they did, some of the messages would have been distorted during further transmission through secondary sources.

The times have changed and the drum and other communication tools have also moved with the times. The advancement of radio has revolutionised the interaction between traditional leaders and their subjects. Radio is now complementing the various traditional modes as a channel for communication between citizens and their traditional leaders.

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Radio presents a number of advantages over the drum and other traditional media. The personalised nature of the radio message allows for real time dialogue, enabling individual listeners to relate with the message as if they were with the messenger. As a result, there is usually immediate feedback on radio through phone-ins, text messages, online platforms and other tools.

The Media Development Network