The SA National EditorsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Forum joins with media organisations
throughout the free world in celebrating World Press Freedom Day, May
3, noting that it coincides this year with the 60th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of which lays down
that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, according to a media release.
Article 19 states that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 19 has become the standard definition for media freedom and peoplesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ freedom of expression and is upheld by the South African government, though from time to time there are serious lapses by officials which have been strongly criticized.
Sanef recalls that it was the Windhoek Declaration of 1991, a seminal document on the fundamental right of peoples to freedom of expression that resulted in May 3 being declared by the United Nations as World Press Freedom Day.
It calls on South Africans to uphold the principles of Article 19 and to help spread appreciation of its values throughout the African Continent where there are many cases of repression of freedom.
In particular, Sanef draws attention to the cruel use of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œinsult lawsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â in Africa ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ laws ostensibly designed to protect the reputations of presidents and premiers but which have been perverted to prevent access and the dissemination of news and to provide protection for lesser government officials such as the heads of the police and military. It calls for countries in Africa which have punished and beaten journalists under the cloak of these laws to abolish them and to release journalists jailed and fined under them.
Sanef also notes that the May 3 celebration is marred by the knowledge that throughout the world more than 150 journalists have been killed in the line of duty.
Sanef upholds the principle that freedom of information and press freedom are the foundations of democratic discourse and open and informed debate and that their existence enables governments to be transparent and accountable, citizens to be informed and to participate meaningfully in the conduct of affairs and, thereby, being empowered and their lives enriched.
With regard to South Africa Sanef notes the fact that freedom of expression and media freedom are constitutionally entrenched freedoms for not only the media but all South Africans. Sanef therefore reiterates its serious concerns with the ruling ANCÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s investigation into the establishment of a statutory media tribunal. Sanef also reiterates its belief in self-regulation as the best mechanism to ensure a free and open press and its support of the existing institutions charged with self-regulation of the media.
Sanef furthermore commits itself to ongoing engagement with the South African government to review Section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act and its adverse effects on the media as well as a review of all legislation which impedes the media in fulfilling its constitutional entrenched functions.
Issued by: SA National Editors' Forum (SANEF)
For more comment please contact:
Henry Jeffreys ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ SANEF Deputy Chairperson: 082 556 8883
Raymond Louw ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ SANEF Media Freedom Sub-Committee Chair: 082 446 5155