< Back

ANC pays tribute to veteran journalists on Press Freedom Day

19 October 2010

The African National Congress (ANC) today (19 October 2010) joins all sectors of the South African society in commemorating the 33rd anniversary of Press Freedom Day. It was on that darkest day in the history of the Press in this country when on 19 October 1977, the apartheid regime - determined to suppress any dissenting voice - muzzled the Press.

Now - almost 16 years into constitutional democracy - we are happy that the Press no longer endure experiences similar to South Africa under apartheid due to the Constitution guaranteeing and protecting Press freedom. This is what the ANC has for years fought for. We have been in the forefront of struggles and campaigns for a free Press in South Africa. At a time the ANC was banned from operating as a political organisation inside the country, we went on record to deplore 19 October 1977 and subsequent detention of scores of activists and journalists in the 1980s.

Today, the Press can report freely on any issue without any hindrance. Free speech and a free media are entrenched in the Constitution Act No. 108 of 1996 and the media operate in an environment free of oppression, persecution and the repressive legislation. The crucial role played by the media in informing and educating society cannot be over-emphasised. Promoting the culture of democracy and human rights is at the core of the role the Press continues to play. With the country having moved from racial discrimination to a non-racial democracy where the rights of ordinary citizens are now protected and enshrined in the Constitution, we share the view that there should be a balance between the freedom of expression and the right to dignity and equality. It is against this background that we caution against the abuse of Press freedom. Unbalanced and sensational reporting - only out to tarnish and defame people - can only serve to dent the credibility of journalism.

The ANC also wish to pay tribute to the many journalists - past and present - who have selflessly played a crucial role in the liberation of South Africa. Some of those who paid a heavy price due to their commitment to freedom of the press include legendary World and Weekend World editor Percy Qoboza; his colleagues Thami Mazwai and Joe Thloloe; former Daily Dispatch editor Donald Woods; former Cape Times editor Tony Heard; Imvo zabaNtsundu’s Charles Nqakula; Weekly Mail`s Anton Harber; Vrye Weeklad`s Max du Preeze; veteran photographers Alf Kumalo, Peter Magubane and Sam Nzima; veteran writers Doc Bikitsha and Juby Mayet; former New Nation editor Zwelakhe Sisulu; journalists Mike Lowe, Brian Sokutu, Vincent Mfundisi, Eric Linda and MJ Fuzile - among many who spent years in detention in the 1980s.

Issued by:
Gwede Mantashe
Secretary General
African National Congress