Stop the in­tim­i­da­tion of the me­dia

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

AROUND the world to­day, the as­sault on me­dia free­dom and free ex­pres­sion is one of the big­gest threats to democ­racy. In some coun­tries, jour­nal­ists are killed or maimed for do­ing their work. Oth­ers are forced to flee their coun­tries.

In Africa, re­pres­sive regimes have done ev­ery­thing they can to si­lence crit­i­cal voices, in­clud­ing shut­ting down me­dia out­lets seen not to toe the line, jail­ing jour­nal­ists and forc­ing many into ex­ile.

A few years ago in neigh­bour­ing Mozam­bique, in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Car­los Car­doso was bru­tally mur­dered for ex­pos­ing acts of cor­rup­tion re­gard­ing the pri­vati­sa­tion of that coun­try’s big­gest bank.

In Zim­babwe, jour­nal­ists are fre­quently ha­rassed, ar­rested and in­tim­i­dated by the regime of Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe.

In Zam­bia in re­cent times we have seen a de­cline in me­dia free­dom as well as sev­eral acts of vi­o­lence against the op­po­si­tion. Me­dia free­dom is re­gress­ing in that coun­try, which did so much to help the rest of the re­gion gain in­de­pen­dence.

Me­dia per­son­nel who are crit­i­cal of Zam­bia’s new pres­i­dent, Edgar Lungu, are some­times ha­rassed and ar­rested.

Some news­pa­pers, in­clud­ing the iconic Post, have been shut down as Lungu tight­ens his grip on power.

Last year, editor Lloyd Mu­tungamiri was shot and left for dead in Maseru, Le­sotho, for do­ing his work.

In Swazi­land, King Mswati III has forced all crit­i­cal jour­nal­ists out of the coun­try or put them be­hind bars for ex­pos­ing the rot in the sys­tem in that coun­try.

Go­ing fur­ther north on our con­ti­nent, jour­nal­ists op­er­ate un­der ex­tremely dan­ger­ous con­di­tions, dodg­ing bul­lets, evad­ing ar­rest and liv­ing in fear of politi­cians and their hench­men, who will do ev­ery­thing in their power to si­lence crit­i­cal voices.

South Africa, the bas­tion of democ­racy on the con­ti­nent, can’t be al­lowed to go the way of so many of these African coun­tries.

The threats against jour­nal­ists by Andile Mngxi­tama and his Black Land First or­gan­i­sa­tion must be stopped.

Such acts of in­tim­i­da­tion have no place in the South Africa of Steve Biko, Man­gal­iso Sobukwe, Chris Hani and Nel­son Man­dela.

Un­der apartheid, crit­i­cal jour­nal­ists were in­tim­i­dated, ar­rested, tor­tured and forced to go into hid­ing as mem­bers of the se­cu­rity branch pur­sued them.

But even as the regime came for them, the brave jour­nal­ists, such as the 1950s Drum writers, con­tin­ued to ex­pose the bru­tal­i­ties vis­ited upon our peo­ple by the racist govern­ment. We can­not go back there. We are en­cour­aged by the gov­ern­ing ANC’s stance in re­buk­ing those el­e­ments who seek to di­vert at­ten­tion from the loot­ing of state re­sources by stag­ing gath­er­ings to in­tim­i­date those they think are push­ing the so-called monopoly white cap­i­tal agenda.

South Africa must deal with the de­mons of the past and de­mol­ish the apartheid sys­tem or what­ever re­mains of it.

Trans­for­ma­tion of our coun­try and the econ­omy are non-ne­go­tiable.

Noth­ing must stand in the way of land re­dis­tri­bu­tion and spread­ing the wealth of the coun­try to ben­e­fit all South Africans.

How­ever, to stage protests out­side the homes of jour­nal­ists who you deem to be el­e­ments of the past is an as­sault on our democ­racy and the free­dom of ex­pres­sion, as en­shrined in our con­sti­tu­tion.

This free­dom came at a huge price for us as Africans. We can­not al­low it to be sac­ri­ficed in this fash­ion.

Di­a­logue will help us, as Africans, to strengthen our democ­racy. Threats, in­tim­i­da­tion and vi­o­lence be­long to the past.

Now, more than ever, South Africa’s democ­racy re­quires an in­de­pen­dent, fear­less me­dia to make sure the gains of our free­dom are not fur­ther eroded and hi­jacked by those in power to pro­tect their own in­ter­ests.

We thus con­demn in the strong­est terms what Mngxi­tama and his col­leagues are do­ing and urge law en­force­ment agen­cies to deal with these acts of in­tim­i­da­tion.

We thank Po­lice Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula for his com­mit­ment to pro­tect jour­nal­ists from harm and to make sure that acts of thug­gery will not go un­pun­ished.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.