Media freedom a foundation for democracy

Friday, May 2, 2014

Pretoria - Freedom of the press and diversity of the media is a pre-requisite for a flourishing democracy, says Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Obed Bapela.

Speaking at the celebratory dialogue of the World Media Freedom Day, under the theme, ‘Celebrating 20 years of media freedom and media diversity’, Deputy Minister Bapela said the media must strive to ensure that every citizen has access to a range of diverse media.

“We must ensure responsible journalism and that our media is transformed to reflect South Africa in every respect,” he said on Friday, calling on the media to come to play and report on the development of the country.

“The society needs to know how it is doing and the media has a role to play in this regard,” the deputy minister said.

May 3 is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom day, as per the proclamation by the United Nations (UN) at its General Assembly in 1993, in line with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This followed the 26th session of UNESCO General Conference in 1991, which adopted the Windhoek Declaration, a statement of principles calling for a free, independent and pluralistic media throughout the world.

The Declaration affirms that a free press is essential to the existence of democracy and a fundamental human goal.

Deputy Minister Bapela acknowledged that South Africa has undergone profound political economic and developmental transformation over the last 20 years that encourages greater freedom and competition.

“Diverse views and opinions coupled with diverse sources of information empower and enriches citizens.”

Also speaking at the event, Media Development and Diversity Agency CEO, Lumko Mthinde, said he acknowledged the transformation that the country has come through since attaining democracy.

“Today we are able to freely talk and reflect about media freedom without fear,” he said, adding that the country should be proud that it is still committed to media freedom.

Eric Kholwane, the chair of Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications, said despite 20 years of freedom, the print media has lagged behind in areas such as control and diversity.

Kholwane’s view was also confirmed by the Transformation of Print Media Report South Africa, which was released at the event.

The report notes that the print media is still owned and controlled by few media companies, which are mainly White owned.

It also notes that as of 2013, the media landscape is still dominated by the “Big Four”: Caxton, Naspers subsidiary Media 24, the Independent Newspapers now Sekunjalo Independent Newspapers and the Times Media Group. –

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