It is never a good day when ordinary citizens, like you are me, are threatened or harassed. It is an especially bad day when those citizens are journalists, and when they are being harassed for doing what they get paid to do – report to their readers on what is happening in our world. And when threats of removing those journalists’ rights to report on what they’ve discovered (or uncovered) are made, then “just another really bad day” becomes a day that cannot be simply dismissed with a “How many days till it’s Friday?” shrug. Instead it becomes a day when everyone must take a step back and realise the implications of these threats. So here is my attempt to rationalise the latest developments in the South African media, and to try and understand the implications:
[1.1] – Mathematicians use numbers. Musicians use notes. Journalists use words.
[1.2] – Good mathematicians use numbers within defined parameters. Creative mathematicians manipulate numbers and push boundaries that have never been pushed before. True mathematical brilliance is reached when there are no boundaries, no limits, no confines, no restrictions. The beauty, the elegance, the uncovered secrets of the mathematical world can be reached when there is total freedom to roam around as one pleases in the mathematical world.
[1.3] – If [1.2] is true of mathematicians who use numbers, then, by implication from [1.1], the same must be true of journalists who use words in the journalistic world: secrets (beautiful or otherwise) can only be uncovered if there is total freedom.
-end of Sub-Proof One-
[2.1] – South Africa’s Constitution grants everyone the Right to Freedom of Speech (yes, with capital letters).
[2.2] – The ANC is currently South Africa’s ruling/governing party.
[2.3] – The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) is directly affiliated with the ANC.
[2.4] – If the ANCYL threatens to undermine everyone’s Right to Freedom of Speech, then, by [2.3], [2.2] and [2.1], the ANCYL is directly contravening South Africa’s Constitution.
-end of Sub-Proof Two-
[F.1] – From [1.3], journalists need freedom in order to do brilliant work.
[F.2] – From [2.4], South Africa’s Right to Freedom of Speech is under threat by the ANCYL.
[F.3] – If journalists’ Right to Freedom of Speech is compromised by threats from the ANCYL, then journalists will no longer be able to do the brilliant work we have come to expect from them.
Corollary to [F.3] – If journalists’ Right to Freedom of Speech is compromised, then the whole of South Africa’s Right to Freedom of Speech is compromised.
The ‘Corollary to [F.3]’ shows that the implications are serious. And, as a South African citizen, I am strongly against any threats of this kind. So, like others before me, I encourage South Africans to take a stand and protest against this potential violation of our Constitutional Rights. Go blog about it. Go tweet about it (hashtag #SpeakZA). Go put it on Facebook. Go e-mail it. Just don’t keep quiet.
This is where it all started:
Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of the ANC Youth League spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the Secretary General of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money laundering practices of Dumisani Lubisi, a journalist at the City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on Constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa. We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.
The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.
We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but a insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the Youth League President.
We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other Constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.
Bloggers who support this online protest:
And yours truly.
Be sure to check out the Facebook Group SpeakZA for more up to date info. And, of course, #SpeakZA on Twitter.