Thursday, March 25, 2010

#speakZA - blogs for freedom of the press

One of the problems of being so busy is that the whole #speakZA campaign passed me by. I feel so stupid! I've at least managed to keep up with the news headlines, so I'm aware of all the ridiculous things Julius Malema has been saying. However, not having been on Twitter much, I didn't know about the #speakZA campaign, until this evening when I was catching up on my rss feeds, and saw several posts on it.

Better late than never, I say. So, here I am, jumping on the bandwagon. I am deeply worried about the things that Mr Malema has been sprouting, not because they're just so ridiculous and old-fashioned and seem much more suitable for an Apartheid era politician, but because he genuinely represents a large sector of the country. So, to all the Malema supporters: I stand in solidarity with the reporters you tried to intimidate and say that you need to remember that freedom of the press is what saved this country before.

This is the complaint that Nyiko Shivambu wrote:

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of the ANC Youth League spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the Secretary General of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money laundering practices of Dumisani Lubisi, a journalist at the City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on Constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa. We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.

The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.

We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but an insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the Youth League President.

We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other Constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.

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