Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) regional governing council member Rev. Fr. Dr. Barnabas Simatende called on all authorities and stakeholders to put an end to the attacks on journalists and other media workers.

Dr. Simatende, who also serves as MISA Zambia chairperson said this when he welcomed the guests at the 10th Anniversary 10th Anniversary of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists Africa Commemorations which started today at Victoria Falls.

Those present included Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, the Ms Monica Mutsvangwa, the Minister of State for Matabeleland North, the Mr Richard Moyo, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana, and UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa & Representative to SADC, Prof Lidia Brito.

“Ladies and gentlemen, today we belatedly commemorate the 10th anniversary of the UN Action Plan on Safety and Security of Journalists at a time when we have witnessed an escalation of attacks against media workers across the continent,” Dr. Simatende said.

Simatende narrated that in Southern Africa, in 2020, Mozambican journalist Ibrahimo Mbaruco disappeared, and to date, no one has been held accountable for his disappearance.

While Tanzanian journalist, Azuro Gwanda, has now been presumed dead. He went missing in 2017.

In Lesotho, journalist Lloyd Mutungamiri, was seriously injured when suspected military hitmen shot him and was transferred to South Africa for medical attention in 2016.

Further, in 2020, journalist Ntsoaki Motaung, was shot by members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), during a youth protest dubbed #BachaShutDown.

In Eswatini, two journalists, Andile Langwenya, and Wonderboy Dlamini, were hospitalized after they were allegedly shot at by security services during protests in 2021.

While in Zimbabwe, only a few months ago, four journalists were heavily assaulted while on their way to cover an opposition rally in Gokwe. One of the journalists Toneo Rutsito, who is part of the commemoration gathering lost four teeth as a result of the attacks.

Last week (November 4th) in Zambia, a journalist, Lovemore Phiri, was attacked by suspected United Party for National Development members, while he was anchoring a live phone in radio program, because the ruling party members felt that the program was against the current government.

“Ladies and gentlemen, media workers’ job is to shine a light in dark areas and hold people to account. Such attacks on journalists – which often go unpunished – are not only a risk to journalists but also pose as a risk to the democracies that we are trying so hard to build,” Dr. Simatende pointed out.

The year 2022 marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Plan of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. This day serves as a reminder of the commitments that governments across the world have made to protect the safety and security of journalists.

“As a way forward, we implore our various governments to take the UNPA and localize it into their national legal frameworks. This way, the UNPA does not become an abstract concept, but a living document that future generations will reference as it will guide strategic pathways towards a lasting safety and security regime for journalists in the line of duty.

“Governments ought to go beyond lip service in committing to protecting journalists, but instead should come up with punitive measures for those that perpetrate attacks on media workers.

“The police and the judiciary are key players in promoting the safety of journalists, and the organization I represent – Media Institution of Southern Africa (MISA) – commits to work with these key players to ensure that we create a conducive working environment for journalists.”

He further added that MISA is grateful to UNESCO, who have been training the judiciary on the safety of journalists and have also developed a massive open online course (MOOC) for police officers on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.

“We hope that the judiciary, the police and the broader security community in our respective countries will take up these courses with the ultimate goal of holding to account the perpetrators of crimes against journalists,” he said.

In the photo: MISA Regional Governing Council member Reverend Father Dr. Barnabas Simatende.