Press must be free from state interference

Picture: 123RF/DANIL CHEPKO
Picture: 123RF/DANIL CHEPKO

Startling reports have emerged in newspapers belonging to Independent News Media Group, detailing alleged plots to destabilise the group and hark back to the days of apartheid when racist institutions smashed iconic newspapers like The Rand Daily Mail and The World into oblivion.

For more than two decades, since the advent of democracy, our leaders have fiercely defended a free and independent press, non more eloquently than beloved global icon, Nelson Mandela, who said: ”A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy."

The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour. It must enjoy the protection of our constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.

It was Thomas Jefferson, who in a letter dated January 16 1787, wrote these profound words. "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Any enfeebled class of media could lead to a disturbing weakening of the very democracy that defines modern SA. A fearless media has been keeping a check on power since the birth of our democracy. Now they are being tested.

The press in our fractured political arena, is an awesome and powerful tool which can uncover inconvenient truths. Because of a fearless and alert media, powerful institutions were held accountable for their actions and we became a stronger nation.

Farouk Araie, Actonville, Benoni

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