Ramaphosa reflects on media freedom in South Africa in weekly newsletter

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In his weekly letter, President Cyril Ramaphosa discussed how media freedom in South Africa has changed since the apartheid era and the challenges the industry faces today. The president apparently chose this topic because Freedom Month has just ended and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has published its 2021 Global Press Freedom Index.

Ramaphosa said that we live in a country where all citizens can freely express their views, opinions and dissatisfaction without fear of reprisal, but this has not always been the case. “As we conclude Freedom Month, we remember how far we came from the days when artists’ social protests sparked bans, and critical reporting by journalists risked imprisonment or publication shutdowns,” said the president in his letter of Monday 3. May.

RSF’s 2021 report examined media freedom in 180 countries and territories, found that journalism is totally blocked or seriously hampered in 73 countries, and constrained in 59 others, which means journalism is in dire straits in the world. 73% of countries assessed.

The data also indicates that there is a deterioration in people’s access to information and that barriers to news coverage are increasingly common – exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, according to the Edelman Trust 2021 barometer, nearly 60% of respondents in 28 countries believe journalists are trying to mislead the public on purpose by reporting information they know to be false.

“What is worrying is that media freedom has deteriorated under the COVID-19 pandemic, with the various restrictions put in place apparently having been used to curtail media activity in several locations,” said Ramaphosa.

The secretary general of RSF said that journalism “is the best vaccine against disinformation” but that its production and distribution are too often blocked by political, economic and even cultural factors.

ITS FREEDOM OF THE PRESS “ GUARANTEED BUT FRAGILE ”, SAYS RSF

The Media Freedom Report said South Africa’s constitutional protection protects press freedom and the country is home to a well-established investigative journalism culture, but once again criticized “the law of the United States. ‘apartheid era and terrorism laws’ that are still in effect and are used to limit coverage. government institution on behalf of national interests.

“The state security agency is spying on some journalists and typing on their phones. Others are harassed and subjected to intimidation campaigns if they attempt to cover issues involving the ruling ANC, government finances, redistribution of land to black people or corruption, ”RSF said.

The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) has also accused the Crime Intelligence Division of the South African Police Service (SAPS) of keeping tabs on journalists recently. The Forum also condemned political interference in newsrooms, saying history has shown that when politicians interfere with the inner workings of newsrooms, independence is eroded.

The report also notes an increase in abuses suffered by women journalists in South Africa, including insults, harassment and threats on social media. Ramaphosa said this intimidation – especially threats of sexual violence – is a matter of great concern that cannot be allowed.

South Africa fell one place to place 32nd in the 2021 Global Press Freedom Index. Norway finished first while Eritrea finished last. African countries that enjoy better press freedom than South Africa are Namibia (24), Cape Verde (27) and Ghana (30). Economic heavyweights like the United States (44), France (34) and the United Kingdom (33) rank lower.

Ramaphosa praised the South African media for their central role in bringing corruption and state capture to light, but added that corruption is not the only challenge facing the country.

“The daily lives of many South Africans are still affected by poverty, inequality and underdevelopment, poor service delivery and a lack of access to opportunities,” said the President.

Ramaphosa said if the media are to “stay true to their responsibility to support democracy,” journalists must report on “other issues of the day,” including gender-based violence, crime and “social ills like drug addiction.” .

“It is in the interest of all who love this country and want it to succeed that our media are supported and not hindered in their work. As a society, let us continue to work together to jealously safeguard our country’s media freedom. It has been hard won, and without it we cannot hope to prosper, ”the President concluded.

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