The National Press Club says South Africans must ensure that government upholds the principles of free speech and media freedom. Any laws that infringe on these rights need to be strongly opposed. In a statement marking Media Freedom Day, the press club said that in line with the constitution, it was “vital for our democracy to ensure that rights of the media are not trampled upon.” On 19 October 1977 the newspapers The World and Weekend World as well as several black consciousness organisations were banned. Editor Percy Qoboza was arrested and jailed together with other journalists. The day became known as “Black Wednesday.”
“This year the day is even more relevant as it comes amid intense discussion and debate around media freedom, sparked by the proposed Protection of Information Bill and Media Appeals Tribunal,” says Yusuf Abramjee, chairperson of the National Press Club Abramjee says it is important that the media industry in South Africa should honour this day, especially now that media freedom is in the spotlight. “The press club welcomes the announcement by the Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) and government meeting over the weekend. He said that the print media will be given time to address its shortcomings – referring to the proposed media tribunal,” says Abramjee. Abramjee says it was heartening to hear Motlanthe saying that government remained fully committed to the constitution. “He told the meeting that the government has no intention of doing anything whatsoever that may undermine freedom of expression and freedom of the media to function effectively. He added that Parliament will not pass any laws which go against the constitution,” says Abramjee. He says whilst the media has to be independent, expose wrongdoing, highlight the good and the bad, it must continue to find concrete and practical ways of creating a better South Africa.
“As we celebrate Media Freedom Day, let’s celebrate our achievements since the dawn of democracy and reaffirm the need for free speech. Any move by government to curtail our freedoms will be fought vigorously and we must stand up for what’s right,” says Abramjee. The press club calls on the media fraternity to support all the different actions planned for the week, such as the Right2Know Campaign’s Week of Action from 19 until 27 October. (Ends)
Enquiries: Yusuf Abramjee, tel 082 441 4203 National Press Club, tel 012 804 5199