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Southern Africa Media Services Organisation: An Education Centric Approach To Photojournalism

The Southern Africa Media Services Organisation (SAMSO), a pivotal regional non-governmental entity, echoes this mission, striving to enhance the landscape of media through education, advocating for the rights to information, freedom of expression, and media freedom. Their work is aimed at bolstering socio-economic and political development across the region [2].

The foundation of their endeavors lies in empowering through education, with programs focusing on a myriad of critical areas such as photojournalism, media training, and the promotion of gender equality through images. Initiatives like ‘Women’s Voice’, ‘Environment’, and ‘Rural Development’ further illustrate their commitment to leveraging media for societal progress. By collaborating with notable names in the industry, including Trevor Davies, Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, and Neo Ntsoma, and organizations like Drik and Freidskorpet, the Southern Africa Media Services Organisation seeks to mold an informed, conscientious media landscape capable of driving significant change [2].

The Genesis of Southern Africa Media Services Organisation

The South African media landscape is diverse, encompassing various forms of media that play a pivotal role in the country’s democracy and development. This diversity is evident in:

  • Newspapers: With publications in multiple languages including English, Afrikaans, Zulu, and Xhosa, South Africa boasts an estimated 1.3 million newspapers sold daily. The sector is dominated by four major publishing groups: Avusa, Naspers, Independent News and Media, and CTP/Caxton, reflecting a rich but concentrated media environment [3].
  • Magazines and Books: The magazine industry, led by giants such as Naspers and CTP Holdings, alongside a relatively small but significant book publishing sector with over 120 publishers, contributes to the cultural fabric of the nation. This sector, despite its size, is crucial for the economy and literacy [3].
  • Broadcast Media: Television and radio are the most influential media forms in South Africa. Television, regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), and radio, led by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) with its mix of state-owned, commercial, and community stations, reach a wide audience. The SABC, operating five television channels and 18 radio stations, has been a subject of scrutiny for its perceived bias towards the ruling ANC party [3][4].

These components underscore the complexity of South Africa’s media landscape, marked historically by censorship and state control during apartheid, evolving post-democracy towards a more liberated public broadcasting space. Yet, challenges persist, including media concentration and the need for independent news media as highlighted by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) [5][6].

Core Objectives and Programs

At the heart of the Southern Africa Media Services Organisation’s initiatives are its core objectives and programs, meticulously designed to foster a thriving media landscape across the region. These are outlined as follows:

  • Core Objectives:
    • To create an environment conducive to media freedom and free expression, promoting independence, pluralism, and diversity of views and opinions [2].
    • To enhance media sustainability, competency, and professionalism in the southern African region [2].
  • Key Programs:
    1. Freedom of Expression and Right to Information (Programme A): Focuses on safeguarding and promoting these fundamental rights [2].
    2. Broadcasting Diversity and ICTs (Programme C): Aims at fostering diversity in broadcasting and the effective use of information and communication technologies [2].
    3. Media Support (Programme D): Provides support to media practitioners and outlets to enhance their capabilities [2].
    4. Legal Support (Programme E): Offers legal assistance and advocacy to protect media rights and freedom of expression [2].
  • Strategic Actions:
    • Advocacy for media rights and freedom of expression [7].
    • Capacity building for media practitioners, including training and development programs [7].
    • Establishment of a warning communication system to respond to media rights and human rights abuses against journalists [7].

Through these concerted efforts, the organisation not only addresses immediate challenges but also lays the groundwork for a resilient and diverse media ecosystem in Southern Africa.

Impacts on Media Freedom and Expression

The landscape of media freedom and expression in Southern Africa has been marked by significant challenges and developments:

  • Legal and Political Challenges:
    • Zimbabwe’s Cyber and Data Protection Act has been criticized for potentially curtailing media freedom by intimidating journalists [11].
    • In Ethiopia, the arrest of at least 29 journalists and media workers in 2022 underscores the ongoing attack on media freedom [11].
    • Tanzania continues to utilize repressive media laws to limit media freedom, highlighting the need for reform [11].
  • Safety of Journalists:
    • Physical Harassment: There has been an uptick in physical harassment, with women journalists disproportionately affected. In South Africa, the percentage of women editors dropped from 60% in 2021 to 20% in 2023, indicating a broader issue of gender-based challenges within the media sector [15].
    • Threats and Intimidation: Journalists across the region face intimidation, threats, and even killings for their investigative work, particularly in Eswatini where cultural traditions and legal restrictions hamper investigative journalism [16].
  • Economic and Social Impact:
    • The challenge of economic viability affects media freedom and freedom of expression, as financial instability can lead to censorship or biased reporting [14].
    • Despite these challenges, the South African media has played a crucial role in fostering democratic debate and accountability, especially through investigative reporting on corruption and malfeasance [13].

These points underscore the complex environment in which journalists operate within Southern Africa, facing both legal and physical threats to their freedom and expression, alongside economic challenges that impact the viability of media houses.

Challenges and Controversies

  • Economic and Technological Shifts:
  • The transition towards digital platforms like Netflix and Spotify is reshaping the media landscape, leading to a decline in funding for traditional radio and television [17]. This shift underscores the urgent need for media companies to adapt to changing consumer behaviors.
  • High data costs and internet disruptions pose significant challenges for media consumption and distribution in Africa, making digital sustainability a critical concern for media houses seeking to navigate the evolving digital ecosystem [18].
  • Media Company Dynamics:
    • Multichoice, Media24, and Primedia dominate the South African media market, with Multichoice leading with a substantial annual revenue and a vast subscriber base for its TV service, DStv [17]. This concentration of media power raises questions about media diversity and pluralism.
    • The closure of news outlets like Business Insider South Africa and New Frame due to financial constraints and licensing issues highlights the precarious economic conditions facing media organizations [15].
  • Regulatory and Social Challenges:
    • Government interventions through cyber legislation and potential state control, including media shutdowns, threaten media freedom and expression [18]. These actions not only limit journalistic independence but also hinder the public’s access to diverse information sources.
    • The general expectation for free access to information, coupled with declining circulation numbers for print media, indicates a broader shift in media consumption habits and the need for innovative approaches to content monetization [18].

Success Stories and Milestones

In the dynamic media landscape of Southern Africa, several success stories and milestones have emerged, showcasing innovation, growth, and the impactful role of media:

  • Media Companies Leading the Way:
    • Multichoice, Media24, and Primedia stand as pillars in the South African media industry, employing 7000, 5000, and 1000 individuals respectively, demonstrating the sector’s capacity for job creation and economic growth [17].
    • The digital evolution is embraced with 43.48 million internet users and 25.8 million social media users, highlighting a significant shift towards digital platforms and the importance of online presence for media entities [17].
  • Innovative Media Trends and Strategies:
    • The dominance of TV remains, yet there’s a noticeable surge in video-on-demand and streaming services, indicating a diversification in content consumption habits [17].
    • Effective marketing strategies including the use of press release distribution, media monitoring, and collaboration with PR teams underline the importance of adaptive and strategic approaches in the constantly evolving media landscape [17].
  • Spotlight on Local Success:
    • Spot Africa Media, a Kenyan-based company, has been pivotal in telling remarkable stories and preserving cultural practices since its inception in 2016, showcasing the power of media in cultural preservation and storytelling [19].
    • Success stories funded by USAID, like the Thusanang Care Group and the implementation of innovative smart lockers, demonstrate the media’s role in healthcare and community development, highlighting its potential to drive societal progress [20].

The Future of Media in Southern Africa

The digital era has ushered in a transformative period for the media industry in Southern Africa, characterized by:

  • Digital Transformation and Competition:
    • The media industry is witnessing a significant digital shift, reducing entry barriers and creating a competitive environment where traditional media entities, OTT operators, and social networks vie for advertising dollars and subscribers [22].
    • This competition has led to an increase in digital revenue, outpacing non-digital sources, and a push towards integrated offerings that combine social media, e-commerce, and entertainment [22].
  • Content Delivery and Monetization Challenges:
    • New methods of content delivery, such as direct streaming from events to consumers and platforms offering both VOD and live channels, are gaining traction. However, monetization remains a challenge for OTT services, with the success of content heavily reliant on its nature and cost [22].
    • Regulatory variances across Africa complicate the landscape for international companies, necessitating local partnerships for effective market entry [22].
  • Media Consumption Trends:
    • Internet advertising is set to surpass TV advertising, indicating a shift in marketing strategies towards digital platforms. The Southern African media landscape is adapting to these changes with a focus on creativity and timely engagement with the audience [22][17].
    • With 43.48 million internet users and a high social media penetration, the region is ripe for digital media ventures. Local content and niche markets present viable opportunities for growth, emphasizing the importance of understanding and catering to the diverse preferences of the Southern African audience [22][17].

These trends highlight the ongoing evolution of the media sector in Southern Africa, driven by digital innovation and changing consumer behaviors.


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