lthough South
Africa’s Constitution protects
freedom of expression
media freedom,
the country labours under an
assessment by
the New Yorkbased Freedom House that the nation
and its media are only “partly free”. The
extent of the decline from the status of
“free” which it had enjoyed after the
African National Congress (ANC) took
over from the apartheid government
in 1994, was spelled out by the World
Association of Newspapers and News
Publishers (WAN-IFRA) at a conference
in Durban on 7 June 2017.
The Board of WAN-IFRA expressed concern that a decade after the Declaration
of Table Mountain was adopted by the
World Editors’ Forum Conference in
Cape Town in 2007, conditions for media freedom in South Africa had deteriorated, with the government considering
a range of measures that would intimidate the press, promote self-censorship
and silence criticism.
The country’s political and social atmosphere was described as being “toxic” by
an official of the Eastern Cape African
National Congress (ANC), the national
ruling party, with faction-fighting in the
ANC and the main opposition party, the
Democratic Alliance; the prevalence
of fake news especially in social media and the heavy stench of corruption
and state capture by private individuals,
politicians, state officials and corporate


So This is Democracy? 2017

The depth and breadth of state capture –
defined as the looting of state resources
by politically-connected individuals - is
widely acknowledged. The friendship of
President Jacob Zuma and the business
association of his son Duduzane with
a wealthy Indian immigrant family, the
Guptas, resulted in them being accused
of state capture with the tacit approval of
Zuma. They were accused of influencing presidential appointments, of having
knowledge of cabinet appointments before they were officially announced and
even offering cabinet posts to ANC MPs.
A few weeks before the year ended, former investigative reporter Jacques Pauw
published a blockbuster of a book exposing criminal and corrupt conduct
that he says brought South Africa to the
brink of a mafia state. The book, entitled
The President’s Keepers, Those Keeping Zuma in Power and Out of Prison,
confirmed much of what had been published in newspapers and was rapidly
sold out, resulting in an urgent reprint.

Print Media
The print media had a tough year with
attacks by police on journalists covering protests, obstruction by the police of
journalists and photographers at crime
and accident scenes - in the process
flouting their own Standing Order 156
which regulates their conduct in public treatment of the media and at crime
scenes - as well as threats made to journalists on assignment by demonstrators
and members of the public.
There were demonstrations and pickets
outside journalists’ homes, death threats
levelled at Sipho Masondo of City Press,
former SABC journalist Vuyo Mvoko and
Sunday Times’ Mzilikazi wa Afrika; theft
of mobile phones and equipment while
on assignment, with photographers the

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