South Africa’s status as a “beacon” for press freedom is being threatened by increased state involvement, the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) said on Thursday.
“On World Press Freedom Day [Thursday, May 3] we celebrate the role of the news media around the world in sustaining democracy, fighting tyranny and enriching public life,” it said in a statement.
“South Africa remains a beacon of press freedom on the African continent, but that status has come under real threat from new legislative proposals, from hostile political rhetoric, and from the conduct of some senior state officials.”
It said journalists, civil society groups, and trades unions were united in their opposition to aspects of the Protection of State Information Bill.
“Without the insertion of a clause protecting from prosecution those who publish such secrets in the public interest … the Bill is a danger not just to press freedom, but to democracy,” Sanef said.
It said it was pleased to be able to point to a growing body of jurisprudence that not only protected media freedom, but also secured it against prepublication censorship and acknowledged the need to protect sources.
“Of course press freedom requires more than good laws. It can only flourish in an environment where openness is cherished, where journalists work free from harassment, and diverse voices are able to be heard,” it said.
“Press freedom and the quality of democracy are intricately linked, and we celebrate and guard our own not in isolation from the rest of the continent, but in solidarity with a cause that crosses all its borders,” Sanef said. — Sapa