With the approach of World Press Freedom Day on May 3 the SA National Editors' Forum
meeting in Pietermaritzburg expressed its deep concerns at the erosion
of those freedoms and of the values in the Constitution in South Africa, according to a release.
Editors noted that in a ranking of Press freedom throughout 167 countries in the world by Reporteurs sans Frontiers South Africa which in 2002 was placed 16th in the last year has dropped to 44.
South Africa's ranking in Africa is sixth, a “score'' that a country with a fine Constitution and with aspirations to freedom of expression and transparency can hardly be proud about.
An indication of South Africa's cavalier attitude to Press freedom is illustrated by the decision of parliament's portfolio committee on home affairs to invite hearings on the Films and Publications Amendment Bill — a measure which the media has rejected as introducing severe pre-publication censorship — on May 2 and May 3. The media was not consulted before the legislation was drafted and despite promises in response to criticisms that consultations would be held, none have taken place. Instead, the portfolio committee has proceeded with this highly restrictive Bill affording the media only a “last chance'' to try to stave it off and blatantly chosen World Press Freedom Day to conduct these proceedings.
Sanef condemns the long list of other infringements on Press freedom and obstacles to gathering news which make a mockery of World Press Freedom Day and SA's Constitution. A journalist has been kidnapped in protest against a story that he wrote, the media have been excluded from court hearings and their notebooks snatched, photographers have had images of the President removed from their cameras, reporters have been barred by police from demonstrations, civil authorities have refused to convey information such as crime statistics to the media and some have refused to place public advertisements in certain papers.
All these inroads against Press freedom have occurred against a vociferous barrage of angry outbursts from politicians and others in authority which take the form of shooting the messenger.
Finally, SA's new democratic government is about to embark on its first secret trial of three men who have been arrested on charges relating to nuclear secrets, a process which Sanef roundly condemns.
Sanef Deputy Chairperson
082 466 8140
Sanef Media Freedom Committee chairperson
082 446 5155
011 646 8790
082 379 4957