A new BBC survey has found that South Africans are among the strongest proponents of free media in the world, writes a special journalism.co.za correspondent.

The survey, carried out as part of a programme to mark the BBC World Service's 75th anniversary, involved interviews with over 11 000 people in 14 countries. Three African countries were included in the survey – SA, Nigeria and Kenya.

The findings were that 63% of SA respondents put the importance of a free media above the
need for peace and stability (global average 56%), and just 38% argued that stability may
require curbs on the press. This makes South Africans among the
strongest proponents of media freedom globally, outstripped only by Europe and North America.

This finding should give comfort to the SA National Editors
Forum, which has launched a campaign to build support for media

However, perceptions of actual media freedom are
slightly below average. Forty-nine percent feel the SA media can report
freely, compared to 56% globally.

In another significant
finding, SA respondents rated the performance of private media
distinctly higher than public media. Private media received
a 68% positive rating, while the public media scored just 30%. This is
the highest difference among the three African countries surveyed.

South Africans voice more concerns about the implications of media
ownership than other Africans, with 62 percent agreeing a concentration
of private ownership is a major issue “because you often see owners’
politicalniews emerge in the news” and 29 percent disagreeing," the survey findings say.

In his summary for the BBC news website, Torin Douglas writes:

World opinion is divided on the importance of having a free press, according to a poll conducted for the BBC World Service.

Of those interviewed, 56% thought that freedom of the press was very important to ensure a free society.

But 40% said it was more important to maintain social harmony and peace, even if it meant curbing the press's freedom to report news truthfully.

Pollsters interviewed 11,344 people in 14 countries for the survey.

In most of the 14 countries surveyed, press freedom (including broadcasting) was considered more important than social stability.

The strongest endorsement came from North America and Western Europe, where up to 70% put freedom first, followed by Venezuela, Kenya and South Africa, with over 60%.

In India, Singapore and Russia, by contrast, more people favoured stability over press freedom.

In those countries, around 48% of respondents supported controls over the press to ensure peace and stability.

Click here to read the full report, posted on the BBC's website.

A pdf file of the full findings is available on the BBc website. Click here to download it.





Journalism.co.za adds: