Today, 3rd May, 2018, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) joins the international community in commemorating the World Press Freedom Day. This is the day set aside to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom.
SADC is proud that the World Press Freedom Day traces its origin from the SADC Region following the Declaration of Windhoek which emphasises that a free press is essential to democracy and fundamental human rights. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed 3rd May, the day of the adoption of the Declaration of Windhoek, as World Press Freedom Day on the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference.
It is encouraging to note that, since 1991 when the Declaration of Windhoek was adopted, the SADC Region has witnessed a proliferation of state and private controlled media outlets. In most SADC Member States, journalists continue to report freely in exercise of their freedom of expression, as stipulated in the Constitutions of most Member States. The Region has also media great strides in media training.
SADC values the important role of media, recognizing that the media helps to inform, educate and entertain a large, heterogeneous and scattered groups of people that would not be reached through interpersonal means. SADC also acknowledges the influence of the media in shaping public opinion and perceptions.
Today as we commemorate the Press Freedom Day, I call on the media in the SADC Region to exercise their influence responsibly to enhance social cohesion, promote peace and stability; and advance the SADC Regional Integration Agenda.
I also call for the media to assist in the promotion of the SADC Industrialization Agenda. In 2015, SADC adopted the regional Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015 –2063) which was developed as an inclusive long-term modernization and economic transformation scheme that enables substantial and sustained raising of living standards, intensifying structural change and engendering a rapid catch-up of the SADC countries with industrializing and developed countries.
In this regard, the SADC Secretariat stands ready to partner with the media to inform citizens on the identified regional values chains and the opportunities presented by the Industrialisation Strategy for different Member States, including the private sector.
Lastly, as we commemorate the World Press Freedom Day, I am cognisant of the speed and intensity of 'fake news' and dangers it poses. I, therefore, urge the media in the Region to desist from sensational reporting and propagating 'fake news' which can be detrimental to our society.
I wish to reiterate that, through the annual Media Awards, SADC will continue to reward journalists whose photo, print, television and radio content supports the process of SADC Regional Co-operation and Integration.
For more information contact Ms. Barbara Lopi, Head of Communication and Public Relations at the SADC Secretariat on email; email@example.com
Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax
SADC Executive Secretary
3rd May 2018, Gaborone, Botswana