In December 1989, a group of media practitioners largely drawn from various countries of southern Africa met in Chobe, northern Botswana, to discuss “the right to inform and be informed”.
This sowed the seeds of what was to become the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), which was established in 1992, with a SADC regional mandate of promoting the provisions of the Windhoek Declaration of May 1991 that declared “independent, pluralistic and free press” as essential for democracy and economic development.
The Zimbabwe Chapter of MISA was formed by a Trust on 27 August 1995 and established a fully-fledged secretariat in August 1997. Being a membership organisation since its inception, MISA-Zimbabwe has grown its membership in not only numbers but has since diversified its membership from mainstream media practitioners and houses to include persons with an interest in media freedom and freedom of expression. To date, MISA-Zimbabwe has a total of 227 paid up members, as of its Annual General meeting of 2015. Of these members, 65 are female and 162 are male, a reflection of the general male dominance in Zimbabwe’s media environment.
MISA Zimbabwe activities are decentralized in ten of the country’s provinces through the advocacy committees, a structure that was formed and is recognized through a constitutional amendment enacted in 2008.
In the past decade of its programming MISA Zimbabwe has scored some successes in influencing the reformation of the media space, which the organisation continues to build on in advocating for comprehensive democratic media policies that would enhance freedom of expression and access to information in all spheres of their lives for informed citizen participation. Key among the successes is the inclusion of explicit guarantees for media freedom and access to information in the new constitution of 2013, the partial opening up of the broadcasting sector through the licensing of two national and eight local commercial radio stations and the reduction in the number of incidents of journalists/media harassment.
MISA Zimbabwe is continuously engaged in lobbying for a favourable legislative environment with relevant authorities. Its latest being the on-going Constitutional Court challenge seeking an order declaring the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act unconstitutional as it clashed with Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution.