Mahlatse Mahlase is chairperson of the South African National Editors' Forum. This is an edited version of her speech delivered at the forum's annual Black Wednesday gala dinner at Emoyeni in Parktown, Johannesburg on Friday 18 October 2019.
"A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour. It must enjoy the protection of the Constitution so that it can protect our rights as citizens."
I have just quoted the words of our revered late statesman Nelson Mandela -- reminding us of the importance of a critical and independent press as the cornerstone of our democracy.
However as I read his words 26 years later -- I couldn't help it -- my heart sank.
The reality is that the lifeblood of our democracy is under threat. It is fighting for its economic survival and pushing back against what appears to be an orchestrated campaign to silence investigative reporting exposing the greed and ills of our politicians.