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South Africa

2010

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Protesters taped their mouths shut to oppose the Protection of Information Bill. (Imke van Heerden)

On Wednesday, just before South African lawmakers were scheduled to debate amendments to the controversial Protection of Information Bill, thousands of protesters marched to the gates of Parliament in Cape Town to oppose the measure, which they called an "apartheid-style secrecy bill." The marchers represented a broad coalition of media, academia, trade unions and civil society groups.

South African journalists protest media restrictions on the nation's annual Day of Media Freedom. (Independent Newspapers Cape)

On October 19, 1977, South Africa's government banned The World newspaper, along with Weekend World, the paper's weekly magazine, and Pro Veritate, a Christian publication. Authorities also detained scores of activists and outlawed 17 anti-apartheid groups during the one-day crackdown, which came to be known as Black Wednesday.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe addresses reporters. (AFP)

For the first time in South Africa's months-long debate over the proposal for a government-run media appeals tribunal, a top official from the African National Congress (ANC) indicated on Friday that the plan could be dropped altogether--under certain conditions.

Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, left, South Africa's Jacob Zuma, and Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan at this summer's African Union Summit in Kampala. (AFP/Marc Hofer)

While South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) discusses the party's proposal for a media appeals tribunal, delegates should take note of a landmark ruling in Nigeria this year in which a High Court judge declared a government-dominated press council unconstitutional. 

Dasar (Clifford Derrick)

Violence has cut through the life of 28-year-old journalist Abdulahi Ibrahim Dasar, from his high school days in Kismayo, the third-largest city in Somalia, to his life as a refugee in South Africa. The turbulence of Dasar's life also explains his entry into journalism, a profession that has made him a target of assassination by hard-line Somali militants. 

Back in 2001 in Kismayo, Dasar had ambitious plans to become an entrepreneur, but bloodshed from local clan warfare forced his family to seek refuge in South Africa. In the peaceful suburbs of Cape Town, the familiar sound of bullets was gone at last. Very little knowledge of English and difficulty clicking the South African isiXhosa language spoken by the people of the Western Cape did not stop him from venturing into small-scale kiosk work selling groceries.

President Khama has not been a friend to the media. (Reuters)

For Batswana journalists, news that their South African colleagues are busy warding off a proposed statutory media tribunal from the ruling African National Congress sounds all too familiar. For more than a decade, the government of Botswana has been trying to push a media law that would effectively shift the whole media under state control.

This was eventually achieved as in December 2008, the Media Practitioners Act came to being after being pushed through parliament by the dominant ruling Botswana Democratic party. The implementation of the act has however been frustrated by fierce advocacy by Botswana media groups, with the key assistance of the Law Society of Botswana, which also refused to participate in the implementation as required.

The Right2Know campaign opposes the government's secrecy bill. (Ghalib Galant)

Cape Town's St George's Cathedral, a rallying point for civil rights action during apartheid, was the site of the public launch on Tuesday of a mass campaign aimed at stopping a secrecy bill seen as a major threat to South Africans' hard-won freedom.

Sammy Mbau (CPJ)

The chorus of voices opposing the South African government's proposed Protection of Information Bill and state-backed ombudsman continue to grow. South Africa's Business Day estimates the press produces three articles per day opposing what many journalists see as an attempt by the ruling party to muzzle investigative reporting. More than 30 editors from major papers published protest messages mid-month calling on the government to abandon the planned legislation. But the South African media has yet to coordinate a mass protest comparable to that successfully orchestrated by Kenyan journalists in 2007 against the country's media bill. And President Jacob Zuma, infamous for issuing defamation suits against a critical South African press, may not back down easily in the face of public criticism. 

Presidents Mugabe and Zuma at this month's SADC summit. (EPA)

As heads of state gathered last week at the summit of the Southern African Development Community, or SADC, in Namibia, their discussions were dominated by the progress of Zimbabwe's precarious power-sharing political agreement, which includes pledges to address a repressive media environment. Leading the mediation in the Zimbabwean crisis has been neighboring South Africa, which has been seen as a one-eyed man among the blind in terms of democracy and press freedom in Southern Africa. Yet the moral authority of South African president Jacob Zuma in Zimbabwe's situation is undermined by proposals of his African National Congress-led government to restrict the vibrant press in South Africa.  

President Zuma in parliament. (AP/Nic Bothma)

The South African media is facing its fiercest battle yet with the country's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), over the boundaries of freedom of expression in the 16-year-old democracy. On August 8, 37 senior members of the media issued a declaration decrying recent moves on the part of the ANC to potentially restrict the media's ability to report freely. The Auckland Park Declaration was published shortly after a war of words erupted over a media tribunal proposed by the party.

2010

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Killed in South Africa

3 journalists killed since 1992

1 journalist murdered

Contact

Africa

Program Coordinator:
Sue Valentine

Advocacy Coordinator:
Mohamed Keita

East Africa Consultant:
Tom Rhodes

West Africa Consultant:
Peter Nkanga

svalentine@cpj.org
mkeita@cpj.org
trhodes@cpj.org
pnkanga@cpj.org

Tel: 212-465-1004
ext. 117
Fax: 212-465-9568

330 7th Avenue, 11th Floor
New York, NY, 10001 USA

Twitter: @africamedia_CPJ

Blog: Sue Valentine
Blog: Mohamed Keita
Blog: Tom Rhodes
Blog: Peter Nkanga