19 October 2018

South Africa: Government Commemorates Media Freedom Day

Government has joined South Africa's media in commemorating Media Freedom Day and the anniversary of Black Wednesday.

On 19 October 1977, South Africa's apartheid government banned three publications and outlawed 17 anti-apartheid groups during a one-day crackdown which came to be known as Black Wednesday.

"Government would like to use this day to recognise the role the media plays towards strengthening our democracy. Media freedom is one of the cornerstones of democracy and this freedom, entrenched in the South African Constitution, should be guarded at all times," said Acting Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Director General Phumla Williams.

Williams said the diverse South African media industry is known for its robustness and is critical in shaping public discourse, playing its part to ensure the country has an informed citizenry and enabling participation in debates.

"In South Africa, the media enjoys editorial independence and our Constitution is unambiguous about the protection of media freedom. The role that the media plays in our developmental agenda is very vital to growth.

"We see the media as partners in nation building, fostering of social cohesion as well encouraging public debate on a variety of issues that affect our nation and the rest of the world," she said.

She said, however, government believes that while the freedom of the media should be protected, the media has a responsibility to report fairly, truthfully, avoid exaggeration and departure from the facts.

"Irresponsible reporting is detrimental to people's careers and reputation in society," Williams said.

Williams said the GCIS and government in general will always strive to deepen relations with the media to reflect a genuine South African story.

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