Arresting Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya would have a negative
effect on SA’s global media freedom rankings, says Reporters Sans
Frontiers (RSF), writes Thom McLachlan in Business Day.

SA was still placed “within the cutoff” of countries with a progressive press policy, according to the Paris-based international media watchdog’s annual media freedom index released this week.

The research was completed last month , before reports in the Sunday Times that its editor and a senior journalist were being targeted by government and that their arrest was “imminent”.

The group this week released its annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2007, which records SA at position 43 out of 169 countries, one up from last year.

“Should these two journalists be arrested, I’m sure it would have a negative impact on the country’s rankings next year,” the body’s news editor, Jeff Julliard, said.

Sunday Times lawyer Eric van den Berg said he was “unsure what the status of the arrests was”.

He had written to the authorities for clarity but had not received a reply.

Regarding the country’s ranking, Julliard said SA was still perceived to have a stable and positive press freedom policy, despite having lost ground by about 20 levels in the rankings since 2003.

“Within the first 50 countries there is a lot of change from year to year. It is when you are not within the first 50 that there could be signs of problems ahead,” Julliard said.

Click here to read the full report, posted in Business Day's website.