Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Roman Catholic Cardinal Wilfrid Napier have called on their compatriots to oppose a proposed media law that critics say resembles apartheid legislation.
In an unscripted speech on August 18, at the Institute for Democracy in Cape Town, Tutu, who is due to retire from public life in October, challenged South Africans to fight for press freedom by mobilizing the spirit that made the 2010 soccer World Cup a success.
Tutu challenged opponents of the new media control proposals that the ruling African National Congress has put forward, to fight back. He said, "This is your country and it is going to become what you allow it to be."
The Catholic Archbishop of Durban Cardinal Napier, who like Tutu was a noted foe of apartheid, has also spoken out against the ANC's proposed Protection of Information Bill and a state media tribunal.
"It is hard to imagine how any person, group or organization, which only a few years ago was protesting so vigorously for the exposing of all injustice, all corruption, all favouritism and nepotism, could in such a short time be calling for legislation designed to prevent the reporting of these very ills," said Napier on August 19.
The archbishop was among hundreds of readers, academics and activists who sent e-mails, faxes and text messages to The Mercury, in support of the Durban daily newspaper's "No" campaign to the proposed media changes.
"It must be either an extremely short memory or a very guilty conscience that could drive one who had suffered under the old regime to change so quickly from opposing to supporting that undemocratic conduct," said Napier, who also heads the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops' Conference.
In an appeal to South African President Jacob Zuma, Napier said, "Please do not allow our country to be brought into disrepute so soon after the wonderful picture of unity and solidarity that South Africa presented to the world during the World Cup."