On 21 March 2019, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, participated in the Media and Elections Regional Meeting (Southern Africa) which was organised by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe in Johannesburg. The meeting was aimed at sharing lessons and experiences of the media’s role during elections in Southern Africa, with a view to strengthening advocacy for media freedom, access to information and freedom of expression in the region. To gain a critical understanding of the recently adopted Southern Africa Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) Model Law on Elections, the meeting was attended by representatives from the media and civil society organisations from Malawi, Swaziland, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

Participants shared experiences from their respective countries highlighting the challenges and milestones regarding freedom of expression and access to information in general and in the context of elections. Specific issues that were discussed include media regulation, the safety of journalists and other media practitioners, the polarisation of the media, freedom of expression and access to information legal frameworks. In Botswana, for example, it was mentioned that there is no media diversity and plurality. The regulatory framework is restrictive to the extent that community radio stations are not permitted. In Zimbabwe, the media is polarised and the state-controlled media is also partisan-oriented.

Hlengiwe Dube from the Centre for Human Rights spoke on the adoption of the Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections in Africa by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. According to Dube, the essence of the Guidelines is to provide guidance to stakeholders involved in the electoral process to proactively disclose election-related information -- before, during and after elections. She underscored the need for stakeholders to make use of the Guidelines to give effect to the right of access to information in the context of elections as it is a facilitative right that enables one’s political participation. This is guaranteed under article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Centre for Human Rights also took the opportunity to share with the participants the ongoing revision of the Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression under the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa so that they will be able to contribute to the process once public and regional consultations commence.

Sheuneni Kurasha from the SADC Parliamentary Forum presented on the draft SADC Model Law on Elections and participants commented on the draft Model Law. The Model Law is expected to positively influence the implementation of democratic media policies in the SADC region.

 For more details, please contact: 

Hlengiwe Dube
Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4199
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743

Marystella Auma Simiyu
Tutor: HRDA
Project Officer: Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 3810
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743


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