- In South Africa's Limpopo province, journalists from the state broadcaster were recently barred from reporting on the government's budget vote. Press freedom activists see the incident as another proof that the South African government "is showing increasing signs of intolerance towards any form of free expression."
In the first week of May, provincial government officials barred 'South African Broadcasting Corporation' (SABC) television journalists and a camera crew from entering the Limpopo provincial legislature to report on the Lebowakgomo government's budget vote. They were allegedly thrown out after refusing to leave their cameras at the door.
Two weeks earlier, Premier Sello Moloto's political adviser Jack Mokobi is reported to have stormed into the SABC offices in Polokwane to complain about the "harsh" manner in which politicians were interviewed and to demand that Thobela FM's Willie Mosoma be removed from his post as current affairs presenter. Mr Mokobi allegedly accused Mr Mosoma of being biased against politicians from the ruling party, the ANC.
The regional office of the SABC in Limpopo has since met with the Premier of Limpopo province, and the meeting was seen as a positive step in improving relations. Speaking to the South African chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-SA), the SABC has promised to monitor relations and have given the assurance that their reporters will cover a wide range of stories in the province within the accepted journalistic principles and the editorial code of the SABC.
Attempts made by MISA South Africa to contact the Limpopo provincial government were futile as they could not be reached for comment, according to MISA researcher Zoé Titus. Ms Titus expresses concer and outrage over the current trends regarding press freedom in South Africa.
MISA-SA today released a statement, condemning this conduct as "an outrageous breach of South Africa's Constitution." The press freedom group called on the national government "to strengthen and clarify legislation to ensure that state officials at all levels of government are held accountable for their Constitutional responsibilities."
According to Ms Titus, "the South African government is showing increasing signs of intolerance towards any form of free expression following the announcement made by the Minerals and Energy Minister, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, that government would investigate enacting legislation that would make it a criminal offence to spread allegations or false rumours amounting to the incitement of panic."
The proposed laws will be aimed at the media and any organisation acting irresponsibly, according to MISA. Regional press freedom organisations meanwhile are fighting for the general rejection of so-called "insult laws" that hinder free reporting in most Southern African countries. They view current trends in democratic South Africa as a major setback for the region's democratisation process.
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