In the midst of an apparent attempt by the government to silence its
critics by threatening Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya with arrest,
the foundation representing former president Nelson Mandela has come
out strongly for SAÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s journalists, writes Thom McLachlan in Business Day.
Though timed to coincide with the anniversary today of Black Wednesday, marking the apartheid governmentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s media crackdown in 1977, the statement is being viewed as a show of support for media freedom now.
It also follows Business Day columnist Xolela MangcuÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s open letter to Mandela, published yesterday, in which Mangcu warned of an imminent risk to SAÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s freedom posed by the threat to Makhanya.
The foundationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s statement reminded readers of the day in 1977 when The World and the Weekend World were banned and their editors jailed.
It said the year ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œmarked a turning point in the South African stateÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s oppression of the mediaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â, and that in the next decade ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œmany more journalists were detained and banned and newspapers were shut downÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThis week, the 30th anniversary of Black Wednesday, we remember the role of the courageous journalists, newspapers, anti-apartheid organisations and activists targeted by the apartheid regime in 1977,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â a statement on the foundationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s website read.
The statement concluded by saying that Mandela had often paid tribute to journalists. At the closing session of the African National Congress conference in December 1997, Mandela said: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œInstrumental in keeping us in touch and informed, in the dissemination of both the good news and the bad, the sensational and the mundane, has been the media. I wish to pay tribute on this occasion to their unflinching, and often ill-appreciated, commitment to their task and their contribution to a more informed and hence a better world.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
The foundation said it would like to use this opportunity ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œto honour all our journalists who have contributed to the struggle for freedom, and all our media who continue to contribute to the making of democracyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.