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South Africa

2011

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Western Cape protesters march against South Africa's secrecy bill. (R2K)

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. 

Across Continent, Governments Criminalize
Investigative Reporting

Ivory Coast's President and 2010 presidential candidate Laurent Gbagbo talks to the press. (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)

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.

Top Developments
• ANC pushes proposal to create state media tribunal to monitor, sanction press.
• Anti-media rhetoric heats up, tarnishing nation's image as press freedom leader.

Key Statistic
25: Years of imprisonment for disclosing classified information, as proposed in the Protection of Information Bill.


On the defensive about high crime rates and reports of public corruption, the ruling African National Congress pushed back aggressively against a probing news media. As ANC leaders ratcheted up anti-press rhetoric, the government moved ahead with legislative proposals that would monitor and sanction the press, criminalize investigative journalism, and shield public officials from scrutiny. The ANC campaign tarnished the image of Africa's press freedom leader and raised fears that the country could backslide into apartheid-era censorship.

In South Africa, a judge this week ordered an official investigation into allegations that a former news executive for national public broadcaster SABC had muted critical voices and skewed coverage of major events--like the aftermath of Zimbabwe's 2005 election in favor of the ruling party. The ruling comes amid a contentious press freedom debate stirred by legislative proposals from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) that critics say would criminalize investigative journalism.

Protesters in Capetown decry secrecy bill. (Independent Newspapers Cape)

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.

2011

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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
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Blog: Sue Valentine
Blog: Mohamed Keita
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