In December 1989, a group of media practitioners largely drawn from various countries of southern Africa convened 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.
Since its founding MISA, based in Windhoek, Namibia, has monitored, investigated and reported on media freedom violations in the 11 countries of the SADC, earning itself a reputation for being a credible source of such information. In so doing, MISA has since positioned itself as the primary advocate for media freedom and freedom of expression in southern Africa, having successfully – and irreversibly – put media freedom and freedom of expression on the development agenda in southern Africa.
The institute has also gone beyond reporting by providing practical assistance to media practitioners and houses in the form of funds for legal defence as part of its promotion of media freedom. It has also campaigned for the repeal of laws that hinder the enjoyment of free expression and media freedom while promoting the enactment of legislation that promotes access to information and the professionalisation of media such as self-regulation for print media and the establishment of independent broadcasting regulatory authorities for the regulation of broadcast media.
MISA firmly believes that a free and pluralistic media is essential for development, as free media contributes to good governance and promotes political transparency and accountability. The institute bases its work on the principle that free media helps set the agenda and influence public debate. It helps in shaping meaning, forming public opinion, demanding transparency and holding governments accountable. It is an irreplaceable part of public education and facilitates better access to communication for people living in poverty and can help build social cohesion.
The MISA Lesotho chapter was established in 1996. Bethuel Thai represented MISA Lesotho until the office was established, after which he then became the first National Director. Bethuel Thai is a founder of the well known publication in Lesotho, Public Eye Newspaper. He was followed by the second and now reigning National Director Tsebo Mats’asa.