SA: Free expression is a fundamental human right

SA: Free expression is a fundamental human right

Date: May 4, 2018
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By Mauwane Raophala

Johannesburg, 3 May: As we celebrated World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, it is with great sadness that the press continues to be an unsafe environment for the journalists. We need solidarity to continue fighting for press freedom, and protecting our fundamental pillars of free democracy.

This year’s global theme was based on Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law. It covered issues of media and the transparency of the political process, the independence and media literacy of the judicial system, and the accountability of state institutions towards the public.

World Press Freedom Day is a global day that is set to celebrate the primary principles of press freedom, and remind the governments to respect and sustain the rights to freedom of expression protected under the article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The Institute for the Advancement of Journalism held an event about the World Press Freedom Day in Johannesburg. Amongst the panellists was Amina Frense from the South African National Editors Board Member (SANEF) and Nadia Bulbulia from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). They were also joined by Simon Manda of Small Commercial Print-ThisAbility and Musa Sishange from the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) Board Chairperson, as well as Mduduzi Manana from the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) President. The aim of the event was to tackle the current challenges facing media and its ability to effectively and independently inform citizens.

Talking on the matter of journalism versus ethics, Musa Sishange said that “Let’s celebrate our World Press Freedom Day while also being ethical. By being ethical we trying to follow all the element of quality journalism.’’

“It is so sad that the truth is the society’s biggest enemy which drives people into killing journalists. These killings cannot stop journalists from telling the truth which our people need to know of and about,” Amina Frense said.

Even though there are more women getting into the industry few are in decision making. There should be equality in representation of men and women in the decision making structures, simply because equality is a driving force for positive social change.

It is very important to prioritise the safety of women journalists across the world, because they are more vulnerable to gendered violence and harassment. The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) stated that “One must not assume that by virtue of being a woman, every woman journalist automatically strives to fight for women’s rights. However, those who are actively involved in the cause of women’s upliftment can make a difference when it comes to safety issues concerning women journalists.

Press freedom is in connection with safety of journalists. In many countries, journalists receive death threat, defamation laws, and risk of being charged with obstruction of justice. The right to privacy is not absolute and therefore, it must be balanced with other competing rights including the right to freedom of expression.

It is quite clear that journalism has a big role to play in actualising the freedom right to information in the interests of the public. This means stories should answer the needs of citizens as citizens and not just the interests of the political or economic system.

Mauwane Raophala is a Media intern at Gender Links. This article is part of the GL News and Blogs series.

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