The Media Mill, 7 Quince Street, Milpark, Johannesburg

Press Freedom Guaranteed But Fragile

Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states.  The Index is a point of reference that is quoted by media throughout the world and is used by diplomats and international entities such as the United Nations and the World Bank. This is an extract of its 2019 report about South Africa’s state of media freedom.

South Africa’s 1996 constitution protects press freedom. An investigative journalism culture is well established but apartheid-era legislation and terrorism laws are used to limit coverage of governments’ institutions when “national interest” is supposedly at stake. The state security agency spies on some journalists and taps their phones. Others are harassed and subjected to intimidation campaigns if they try to cover certain subjects involving the ruling ANC, government finances, the redistribution of land to the black population or corruption. The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party was given a high court warning in 2019 because of its invective and hate speech against journalists. It is not unusual for journalists, especially women journalists, to be mocked, insulted and even threatened on social media, sometimes by politicians or their supporters.

South Africa’s ranking since 2013.
Year Ranking
2019 31 / 180
2018 28 / 180
2017 31 / 180
2016 39 / 180
2015 39 / 180
2014 42 / 180
2013 52 / 180

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