MISA Reflects on Some Success

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By Francis Tsawayo WINDHOEK The Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA)’s national director and outgoing board members in their reflections in the organisation’s newsletter on their achievements during their two-year term in office, noted various highlights. MISA’s National Director Mathew Haikali who was appointed by the outgoing board late in 2005, bade farewell to the outgoing members, as the newly elected members took office. Haikali described the outgoing board as being at the helm for the past two years of several successes. According to Haikali, the goals realised included the appointment of an information officer and the national director; that the board with the support of the regional secretariat hosted the MISA regional AGM and conference successfully; as well as its involvement in the development of the African Media Barometer. Guidance from the board had enabled the organisation to establish a partnership with various stakeholders, he said. MISA has also been appointed as a convenor of the World Press Freedom Day Committee. Haikali revealed that MISA had since stabilised in terms of planned activities and that the effort of the board to meet regularly to identify and propose ways of improving MISA’s stance amongst media practitioners was yielding positive results. The former Chairman Robin Tyson deliberated on the problems they had to overcome when they took office. “A labour dispute had left the organisation facing staff problems that led to new appointments,” he said. Though MISA is a lobby group and not a trade union, Tyson urged that professional media bodies and unions be formed. “I would like to see more journalists and media institutions getting actively involved in MISA Namibia activities. Before I became the chairperson I was involved in MISA projects and I intend to continue doing so,” said Tyson. According to Natasha Tibiyane, MISA former vice-chairperson, the organisation’s biggest achievement is that they managed to build a better relationship with the Government. “The tense relationship that existed between the two entities in the past only made everybody’s work more difficult. I’m not saying we are best friends but there is at least dialogue. We recognise and are committed to MISA Namibia’s role as a watchdog, with an emphasis on constructive criticism and ensuring that freedom of the press and expression are respected and protected. If we step on a few toes so be it,” she stated. Another achievement she noted was that the organisation managed to raise funds outside of MISA to implement projects, and she accredited efforts made by Haikali to place MISA within the broader civil society. In her closing remarks Tibiyane addressed one of the main challenges that MISA has been facing: “MISA Namibia is struggling to rid itself of the perception that it is the domain of white imperialist journalists and we need to work hard to rid ourselves of that. MISA represents all media practitioner s regardless of race, origin, sex or sexual orientation and upholds the principles of a free and diverse media in a democratic Namibia.” Addressing media houses Tibinyane felt: There exists a rift between private and public media, that needs to be fixed. This can be solved through the implementation of a media council and code of ethics, which I hope will happen soon.” She urged the next board to continue working towards improving this relationship. “At the start of our tenure, this was a huge challenge but once again we as a board got through this testing period,” said Emily Brown, who was an additional member to the board, in her summing up of the challenges and experiences the board encountered.