South Africa’s constitution dictates a freedom of the press, but is that the de facto case? Ayesha Kajee, the leader of the Freedom of Expression Institute, a South African organization, said she is “gravely concerned” about the state’s involvement in the national media on Wednesday.
This comes after allegations that interviews held with former Prime Minister Thabo Mbeki during the World Cup were censored by South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) head of news, Phil Molefe. The SABC denies the charges, but the incident is not isolated.
For several years, the Mail & Guardian, one of South Africa’s newspapers, has been attempting to have a South African report on the 2002 Zimbabwe elections, which saw the controversial reelection of Robert Mugabe, released to the press. The South African government has maintained that the report should not go public, but in June the High Courts ruled that the report must be handed over to the Mail & Guardian. Shortly thereafter, Current Prime Minister Jacob Zuma announced his government would be appealing the case.
Freedom House designates the South African media as “free” and says the freedom of the press is “generally respected.” However, it also notes that “The government is increasingly sensitive to media criticism and has encroached on the editorial independence of the SABC.”