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). The organisation was officially 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” essential for democracy and economic development.
MISA Malawi was established in 1996 but started its operations in 1997 as MISA. In September 2000, the Chapter was registered as a Non Governmental Organisation under the Trustees Incorporation Act under the name NAMISA.
Since its establishment, the Chapter has implemented a number of projects with funding from local and International partners focusing on various fields such as elections, law review, economics, health and environment.
Through its activities, MISA Malawi has grown to establish itself as a reputable and authoritative source of information on media freedom and freedom of expression in the country and the region. Among other notable projects which MISA Malawi has successfully implemented include revival of the Media Council of Malawi (MCM) and formation of the Journalists Union of Malawi (JUMA). MISA Malawi funded the initial national consultative meeting that conceptualised MCM’s revival. MISA Malawi also conceptualised and spearheaded the formation of JUMA.
Apart from the formation of these two institutions, MISA Malawi has successfully lobbied government:
- To repeal Section 46 of the Penal Code which empowered a Cabinet Minister to ban publications deemed “unsuitable” for Malawians;
- To develop and adopt the National Access to Information Policy;
- In campaigning for legislation on ATI – which is currently at Cabinet level;
- In organising a multi-stakeholder group to organise the country’s first ever presidential debates;
- In pushing for the review of the Communications Act – currently in Parliament;
- In campaigning for Broadcasting Diversity – the country currently has over 70 broadcasters from less than 10 in 2000.
MISA also supports the establishment of Community Radio Stations.
But above all the notable achievements, the Chapter has managed to earn respect of the media fraternity as the most authoritative media body in the country with more than 600 individual members – which is the highest in the region.
The Chapter has also irreversibly placed media law reform, media freedom and freedom of expression high on the policy agenda.