The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) yesterday commemorated the 40th anniversary of Black Wednesday. In an attempt to gag the media, numbers of newspapers aligned with the black consciousness movement were banned by the Apartheid State on 19 October 1977. Various prominent journalists were also arrested on this day, along with 19 pro-democracy organisations. Black Wednesday triggered years of resistance and what is now our fight for media freedom in South Africa as well as across the continent.
In recognition of this dark day and in celebration of our hard-won freedom, on 18th October SANEF launched its new identity and a Media Freedom Campaign. Speaking at the fundraising dinner for this campaign, SANEF Chairperson Mahlatse said:
“We have adorned our black armbands against the ANC’s push for the media to be accountable to the state through the media appeals tribunal – accompanied by hostile rhetoric attack, we believe against the cornerstone of our democracy. We have worn the black bands to stand firm against police who try to muzzle us by forcefully deleting our footage, or keep us out of crime scenes or the criminal elements who hijack genuine service delivery protests and turn on journalists hoping removing the public glare will help them evade justice…..They have seen the consequences for Emmanuel Sithole’s killers after his murder was captured by journalists….But today 40 years since our own Black Wednesday we realise it is time to again press the reset button – because it will take much more than the black arm band protest to defend the ideals that Percy Qoboza, Joe Thloloe, Mathatha Tsedu and many others were willing to defend even though they knew the consequences were facing the wrath of the evil apartheid regime.”
Guest of honour, ANC Treasurer-General Dr Zweli Mkhize, affirmed the critical role of the media:
“…we as South African citizens have a moral and ethical obligation to continue to protect our country’s democracy. The media serves as a catalyst in the exercising of this duty.”
He added that, “We should never end up repeating the mistakes of the past, therefore press freedom should always be protected. The Constitution of the Republic guarantees freedom of expression, including freedom of the press. This was a conscious effort on the part of the founding fathers of our Supreme Law to ensure that as a people we would never again suffer under a cloud of ignorance because the media could not tell us the truth.”
Katy Katopodis, SANEF Deputy Chairperson, 082 805 7022
Sam Mkokeli, SANEF Chairperson – Media Freedom Sub-Committee, 082 084 2051