As South Africa celebrated Human Rights Day on March 21, the country was beset by uncertainty on the fate of media freedom and the ability of the press to report without state interference.
By Mohamed Keita
Across the continent, the emergence of in-depth reporting and the absence of effective access-to-information laws have set a collision course in which public officials, intent on shielding their activities, are moving aggressively to unmask confidential sources, criminalize the possession of government documents, and retaliate against probing journalists. From Cameroon to Kenya, South Africa to Senegal, government reprisals have resulted in imprisonments, violence, threats, and legal harassment. At least two suspicious deaths--one involving an editor, the other a confidential source--have been reported in the midst of government reprisals against probing news coverage.
Parliamentary hearings on South Africa's Protection of Information Bill resumed last week with heated debate over provisions threatening to restrict press freedom and access to information. For journalists, much uncertainty remains over the final product and when it will be completed.
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