Four decades after the Black Wednesday crackdown on the media and the Black Consciousness Movement, South Africa is a different country. Freedom of expression is guaranteed in the constitution and a slew of institutions and laws support the guarantee. At the same time, powerful groups continue to seek ways to limit and undermine journalism.
On October 19, 1977, two South African newspapers – World and Weekend World – and a church journal – Pro Veritate – were closed, journalists were banned and detained and some 18 organisations of the black consciousness movement were banned. Since then, the country’s journalists have marked the day as Media Freedom Day.
The 1977 crackdown went further than even the apartheid cabinet of the time had decided: cabinet minutes from the day before, laboriously written in longhand in leather-covered volumes held in the national archives, record the decision that the World newspaper “be suspended for a week” and that the editor Percy Qoboza and others be detained. The Weekend World is not mentioned.
In fact, both papers were banned permanently. There are other differences: the list of organisations actually closed is much longer than was decided by Prime Minister BJ Vorster’s cabinet.
One can speculate about the reasons for the difference between decision and implementation – perhaps the powerful apartheid police simply thought they knew better than their political bosses.
Black Wednesday remains a particularly brutal act of repression in a long line of attempts to silence critical media voices. There have been many victims, before and since.
What’s clear is that the battle for media freedom in South Africa isn’t over. Attacks on journalists continue – whether in the form of physical intimidation or through the threat of new legal measures that seek to restrict the media’s ability to do its job. And the online world has opened up new frontiers that need defending.
Journalism is under attack from a number of quarters.
A number of laws and bills contain problematical provisions. The board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, who met in Durban in June, highlighted concerns with bills on cybersecurity, hate crimes and films and publications as infringing on media freedom.
Then there’s the Protection of State Information Bill (generally called the
Secrecy Bill), whose problematical provisions include an overly broad definition of the national interest and which would severely restrict the freedom to report. The bill was passed in 2013 but is still awaiting signature on President Jacob Zuma’s desk.
There also appears to be a concerted move to reopen the debate around a Media Appeals Tribunal through a parliamentary inquiry, which would subject the media to regulation by Parliament.
Also, this year has seen attempts to intimidate and threaten journalists, most notably by Black First Land First (BLF) and other proxies in what has become known as the state capture project. This has involved attempts by powerful individuals and groups to shape South Africa’s political and economic landscape through corrupt relationships and deals to benefit their own private interests. After BLF’s protest at the home of former Business Day editor Peter Bruce in June turned violent, the South African National Editors Forum obtained a court interdict against the organisation and its leader Andile Mngxitama. As the forum’s chairperson Mahlatse Gallens pointed out in her response to the court ruling:
These kinds of attacks attest to the strength and importance of journalism in present-day South Africa. From exposes on the Nkandla scandal to the Gupta emails, which detailed the extent of state capture, journalistic investigations have set the public agenda. Government ministers have been forced to account and international corporations have been ruined following exposure of their complicity.
When around 1000 of the world’s investigative journalists gather for the Global Investigative Journalism Conference at Wits University in a few weeks – the first time the event is held in Africa – the South African experience will be of considerable interest.
Media freedom in a changed era
Attacks and threats to media freedom are a mark of the importance of journalism, but the effects are felt by the citizenry at large. As the Council of Europe pointed out in a paper on protecting journalists, interference with media freedom
The constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression is mainly about citizens’ right to be informed; journalists hold it in trust for the broader public. Journalism and its organisations have not always been successful in making that point clear.
Seen in that light, the media freedom discussion needs to broaden out and take into account developments which do not amount to direct attempts to harass journalists, but damage their ability to do this important work in other ways.
The long-standing business model of journalistic media is in terminal decline as audiences move to online and social media. Legacy media companies are under intense financial pressure and staffing levels in newsrooms keep dropping. Investment in the time and effort to do journalism of quality is way down.
At the same time, the growth of online platforms has led to an explosion of available information. In many senses, this has been positive, but it has also opened the door to abuse. The campaign in support of state capture involved the extensive use of social media for cyber-bullying and to create the illusion of a groundswell of opinion that does not exist.
The use of information as a weapon is not new – propaganda is as old as the hills, and South African political and factional campaigns have often made use of leaks as a form of warfare. But we seem to be entering a new phase where it becomes harder and harder to distinguish real exposes from the false kind. Some journalists and media outlets, in some cases liberally supported by public funding, are allowing themselves to be used for factional ends.
Trust is journalism’s most valuable asset. In an era of fake news, that trust is harmed not only by what the media themselves may do, but by what is done by pedlars of misinformation, who are often hard to distinguish from professional journalists.
A loss of trust may in the long run cause more harm to journalism than the repressive tactics of past decades.
This article was originally published in The Conversation.
I’d have to examine with you here. Which is not one thing I usually do! I take pleasure in reading a post that may make folks think. Additionally, thanks for permitting me to comment!
obviously like your web-site however you need to test the spelling on several of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to inform the reality however I will certainly come again again.
You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. At all times go after your heart. “A simple fact that is hard to learn is that the time to save money is when you have some.” by Joe Moore.
It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this outstanding blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to brand new updates and will share this blog with my Facebook group. Talk soon!
you are in reality a just right webmaster. The website loading pace is incredible. It kind of feels that you’re doing any distinctive trick. Furthermore, The contents are masterwork. you have done a fantastic process in this topic!
Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something informative to read?
I like the efforts you have put in this, appreciate it for all the great content.
you’re really a good webmaster. The website loading speed is amazing. It seems that you’re doing any unique trick. In addition, The contents are masterpiece. you have done a wonderful job on this topic!
Great line up. We will be linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the good writing.
Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say excellent blog!
I think you have mentioned some very interesting points, appreciate it for the post.
Some genuinely marvellous work on behalf of the owner of this internet site, dead outstanding content.
I got good info from your blog
I am so happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that’s at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.
Greetings! Very helpful advice on this article! It is the little changes that make the biggest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!
Hello there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.
You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I’ll suggest this website!
Everyone loves what you guys are usually up too. This sort of clever work and reporting! Keep up the very good works guys I’ve you guys to our blogroll.
Enjoyed studying this, very good stuff, thanks. “Golf isn’t a game, it’s a choice that one makes with one’s life.” by Charles Rosin.
I enjoy the efforts you have put in this, appreciate it for all the great blog posts.
I really like your writing style, wonderful info , regards for posting : D.
Thank you for your whole effort on this web page. My mum really likes managing investigations and it is easy to see why. Almost all learn all about the compelling medium you convey great items on this web site and therefore increase contribution from website visitors on this idea then my girl is actually discovering a lot of things. Take advantage of the rest of the new year. You are always performing a good job.
great post.Ne’er knew this, thankyou for letting me know.
Very interesting subject, appreciate it for posting.
You can certainly see your expertise within the work you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.
Fantastic website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get responses from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Cheers!
I appreciate your work, thankyou for all the informative blog posts.
Please let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your weblog. You have some really good posts and I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d really like to write some content for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please send me an e-mail if interested. Regards!
Wow! This can be one particular of the most helpful blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Fantastic. I am also an expert in this topic so I can understand your hard work.
Hello, i think that i saw you visited my web site thus i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!
I got what you intend, thankyou for posting.Woh I am pleased to find this website through google.
It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this superb blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group. Chat soon!
I was suggested this website by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem. You’re amazing! Thanks!
I simply could not depart your web site before suggesting that I actually enjoyed the standard info a person provide for your guests? Is gonna be back often in order to check up on new posts.
A person necessarily assist to make significantly articles I would state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and up to now? I amazed with the analysis you made to make this actual put up amazing. Magnificent activity!
Hi I am so delighted I found your blog, I really found you by error, while I was searching on Bing for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a remarkable post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read through it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the superb job.
Nearly all of the things you assert happens to be astonishingly legitimate and it makes me wonder the reason why I had not looked at this with this light before. This particular article truly did switch the light on for me personally as far as this particular subject goes. However at this time there is actually just one issue I am not necessarily too comfy with so while I make an effort to reconcile that with the core idea of the issue, let me observe exactly what all the rest of your subscribers have to point out.Well done.
Hello there, I found your website by means of Google at the same time as searching for a related matter, your website got here up, it seems great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
hi!,I like your writing very a lot! proportion we keep in touch more about your article on AOL? I require an expert in this space to unravel my problem. Maybe that’s you! Looking ahead to look you.
We’re a group of volunteers and starting a brand new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on. You have done a formidable task and our entire group will be thankful to you.
It’s truly a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m happy that you simply shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.
This web site is really a walk-through for all of the info you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you’ll definitely discover it.
excellent points altogether, you simply gained a brand new reader. What might you recommend about your publish that you simply made some days ago? Any certain?
As a Newbie, I am always browsing online for articles that can help me. Thank you
WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. …
Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!
In this grand design of things you’ll secure an A+ just for hard work. Where you lost everybody ended up being on all the particulars. You know, as the maxim goes, the devil is in the details… And that could not be more correct right here. Having said that, permit me reveal to you precisely what did deliver the results. The text is definitely extremely engaging and this is most likely why I am making the effort in order to opine. I do not really make it a regular habit of doing that. Next, even though I can notice a leaps in reason you make, I am not necessarily certain of how you seem to unite your ideas that help to make the actual conclusion. For now I will yield to your issue however wish in the foreseeable future you actually link the facts much better.
Hiya, I am really glad I have found this info. Today bloggers publish just about gossips and net and this is really irritating. A good web site with exciting content, this is what I need. Thanks for keeping this web site, I’ll be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can’t find it.
I believe that is among the such a lot significant info for me. And i am happy studying your article. But wanna commentary on some basic issues, The web site style is ideal, the articles is truly great : D. Just right activity, cheers
This internet site is my breathing in, really fantastic style and perfect written content.
whoah this weblog is magnificent i really like studying your posts. Keep up the good work! You recognize, many people are looking around for this information, you could aid them greatly.
Heya! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the superb work!
БК Зенит (ZebitBet) – официальный сайт букмекерской конторы в Казахстане. Вход и регистрация у букмекера. Ставки на БК Зенит – футбол, хоккей, теннис.
Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. I’d prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.
Having read this I thought it was very informative. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this article together. I once again find myself spending way to much time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!
Some really nice and useful information on this website , besides I think the design has great features.
I conceive other website owners should take this web site as an example , very clean and excellent user friendly design.
hey there and thanks in your information – I’ve definitely picked up anything new from right here. I did on the other hand expertise a few technical issues using this site, as I skilled to reload the site a lot of instances prior to I could get it to load correctly. I had been brooding about if your web host is OK? No longer that I’m complaining, however slow loading instances times will very frequently impact your placement in google and could harm your quality rating if advertising and ***********|advertising|advertising|advertising and *********** with Adwords. Well I’m including this RSS to my e-mail and can look out for a lot more of your respective exciting content. Make sure you replace this once more very soon..
I’m very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best doc.
Very interesting subject, thank you for putting up.
Super-Duper website! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more. I am bookmarking your feeds also.
Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!
Hello There. I discovered your blog using msn. This is a very smartly written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and return to read extra of your helpful info. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return.
Woah! I’m really digging the template/theme of this blog. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very difficult to get that “perfect balance” between usability and visual appeal. I must say that you’ve done a very good job with this. Also, the blog loads super quick for me on Chrome. Superb Blog!
Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I love the information you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, excellent site!
I’m not sure exactly why but this website is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end? I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.
I’ll immediately grasp your rss as I can’t find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly allow me understand so that I may just subscribe. Thanks.
Well I really enjoyed studying it. This information procured by you is very practical for good planning.
I’ve read several good stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much attempt you place to make one of these excellent informative web site.
An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!