SADC faces information gap

> Nteboheleng Mabitso

Maseru — The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministers responsible for Communication and Public Information say a gap in information dissemination in the region needs to be addressed for information to be accessed easily.

Speaking to SADC Ministers, SADC Deputy Executive Secretary Emilie Mushobekwa said harmonisation of information policies of regional economic communities is crucial to regional integration.

She said needless to point out that communication has been a significant issue for some before them, such as the European Union integration.

Emile said public criticism of the incomprehensible nature, not only of the Treaty text but also of the structure, processes and policies of the Union, provided the impetus for a new information and communication policy, based on transparency and openness.

SADC embarked on harmonising Member States Information and Communication Policies as stated in the SADC Council Declaration of 1995.

She said it is important that they revisit and facilitate the implementation of the SADC Declaration on the role of Information and

Communication in building SADC, especially the harmonisation of information to facilitate the free flow of information because as a Community, they can simply not afford to talk to their people with one voice.

The Chairperson of the Committee of SADC Ministers of Information Dumisani Ndlangamandla of Swaziland said the meeting was important as it aimed to address aspects of SADC Public Information, from the SADC Declaration and Treaty of 1995 and the revised Indicative Strategy on Development strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ.

He said as Ministers they had agreed to ensure that SADC information is disseminated in an efficient and timely manner to all citizens so as to avoid ambiguity.

Ndlangamandla said digital terrestrial television (DTT) is going to transform the broadcasting industry by enabling it to provide better picture and sound quality, more choices for the viewer with new innovative and value added services on many platforms.

He therefore, called on Member States to adhere to the SADC Road Map for Digital Broadcasting migration which has a common vision for the SADC region to have a smooth transition from analogue to digital broadcasting through harmonised and concerned strategy.

At the same occasion, Lesotho Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Khotso Letsatsi said information is key to the development of the region in today’s knowledge and information driven society.

“In order to fully achieve regional integration, ensure accountability and promote public participation in the affairs and activities of our regional body, we must have a robust communications strategy,” he said.

He said there is a need to re-evaluate their Communications Strategy and come up with a strategy that will promote the visibility of SADC and popularise the organisation among its citizens. Letsatsi said an effective communications strategy will ensure popular participation of the peoples of the region and deepen integration and interaction between the leaders and citizens.

He said SADC Communications Strategy, must ensure effective partnership with the media, telecommunications operators, civil society, academia, educationalists and communities in order to have an informed and engaged citizenry as communications and information are pivotal in empowering citizens and enabling them to actively participate in all the programmes of SADC.

Letsatsi also talked about the importance for the region to create their own local content which carries their own messages and tell their own stories as well as promoting SADC values and culture. The meeting was held on November 26 in Maseru.LENA

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