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SA Must Guard Sanctity of Press Freedom, says Thloloe


Stalwart Joe Thloloe (middle) with Sowetan journalist Penwell Dlamini and photographer Antonio Muchave

On 24 September 2020 Sowetan published this article written by Penwell Dlamini which is an interview of stalwart Joe Thloloe and Chairman of Aggrey Klaaste Trust [AKT].

SA needs to protect press freedom now more than ever as there are still stubborn resemblances of what the country used to be in the past despite gains made in the democratic era.

This is the view of legendary journalist Dr Joe Thloloe which he shared with Sowetan as he reflected on the current state of the media and its role in nation-building.

Thloloe, who used his pen and notebook to fight the apartheid government, said real liberty is about the freedom of the press.

“Free media is the foundation of democracy. Democracy means that people have their say and they are not scared of saying what they believe and what they want… It is in that exchange of ideas that society flourishes. We need it today more than we’ve ever needed before,” Thloloe said.

He said the role of journalists is critical 26 years into democracy as some of the evils there during the apartheid era can still be seen in a free SA.

“When we got to 1994, we got into a very euphoric state where we thought, at last, we have achieved what we wanted to achieve. But when you look around in society, it is a very sad story. We have regressed rather than progressed.

Therefore, the things that we fought for, we still need to fight for even today.

“People are going to bed starving. Coronavirus has just made it a little worse … That fight for a true democracy continues.”

Thloloe is one of the high-profile speakers who will take part in a colloquium scheduled for October 19 which will discuss the state of the media in SA. The colloquium has been organised by Sowetan in partnership with the Aggrey Klaaste Trust and is supported by Arena Holdings, Wits University, and the SA National Editors Forum. The late Klaaste was the editor of Sowetan who championed the values of nation-building in the newspaper and society at large.

Thloloe said when Klaaste introduced the concept of nation-building some in the newsroom laughed at him as they felt what was needed was the demolition of an apartheid system before anything was built.

“Aggrey Klaaste had the foresight to see that we are going to need to build a nation and he made it the responsibility of each individual. [He taught that] each individual is responsible for building the nation,” he said.

Thloloe, who was arrested four times as a journalist by the apartheid government, said most of the problems faced by society today are a result of the lack of ethos of national building.

“Today ’s morality is ‘I come first. My pocket is the most important pocket’. We’ve forgotten the old saying which is umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu [a person survives because of other people]

“We’ve forgotten the old saying that you should do to others as you would have them do to you. We are now a very materialistic society and that is our tragedy,” he said.

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