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SANEF celebrates World Press Freedom Day, while noting big concerns in SA

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03 May 2023

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) celebrates World Press Freedom Day today noting that our country is a home to a free nation that respects media rights and freedom of expression. Globally however, there is now more red on the world press freedom map today – indicating a serious situation for journalists, according to Reporters without Borders (RSF). Today’s World Press Freedom Day is themed by Unesco as: Shaping a future of Rights: freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights.

SANEF is pleased that South Africa ranked twenty-five out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom index by Reporters without Borders released today – which is ten places up from last year’s position of 35. The index measures how free journalists are to do their job in a particular country. Number one was Norway and last was North Korea. In Africa, the best country was Namibia (22), and the worst was Eritrea.

The most important measure for world press Freedom Day index was the ability of journalists to publish news in the public interest without interference and without threats to their own safety.

Fake news – as in propaganda, disinformation, misinformation – as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI) threaten press freedom worldwide, the RSF report says.

“The difference is being blurred between true and false, real and artificial, facts and artifices, jeopardising the right to information,” the report said. “The unprecedented ability to tamper with content is being used to undermine those who embody quality journalism and weaken journalism itself.”

Artificial intelligence was “wreaking further havoc on the media world,” the RSF report said, with AI tools “digesting content and regurgitating it in the form of syntheses that flout the principles of rigour and reliability.”

While SA’s spot at number 25 still remains better than many western and northern countries, for e.g. the US (45) and the UK (27) in the rankings, this is not to say that the situation has improved in South Africa. Rather it is an indication that press freedom around the world has decreased as the indicators show.

Sanef in SA condemns the attacks on journalists by some political parties, law enforcement agencies, and some communities. There has been a growing trend of online threats targeting journalists, especially women journalists, using hate speech, death threats, and threats of physical harm. There have been trends of trolling and doxing, (the act of disclosing a journalist’s full name, address, contact number, and other identifying details without their consent). Threats to women journalists have also been pervasive, including attacks and threats on journalists’ families, death threats, and threats of rape. We also note concerns about the surveillance of journalists by state intelligence as well as overly punitive legislation that targets journalists or limits their ability to report in all media platforms.

In a joint statement on 2nd May 2023, Csaba Korosi, President of the United Nations General Assembly and Santiago Irazabal Mourão, President of UNESCO General Conference, stated that: “Journalists and media workers make indispensable contribution to the protection of human rights for all peoples… It is time to create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without undue interference. The safety of journalists and media workers must be considered an integral part of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and key to countering disinformation, including in conflict settings,” the statement said.

 Note to Editors:

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists, and journalism trainers from all areas of South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics, and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research, and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.

For more information please contact:

Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Chairperson (073) 404-1415

Nwabisa Makunga – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 555-1972

Qaanitah Hunter – SANEF Secretary-General

Tshamano Makhadi – Treasurer-General (082) 223 0621

Makhudu Sefara – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (079) 177-2134

Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334

Glenda Daniels – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (083) 229-9708

Rochelle De Kock – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (072) 969-8028

Reggy Moalusi – SANEF Executive Director (071) 682-3695

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.sanef.org.za