Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Press Freedom in SA

Sapa reports that the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC) has expressed concern at what it calls the "South African government's attempts to muzzle media" after reports of a terrorist attack emerged from Pakistan earlier this month.

Two South Africans were arrested in Pakistan for allegedly being involved or associated with a group which sought to bomb key buildings in the country. The South African media acted on the reports which came from Pakistan from French news agency, Agence France Presse, Raymond Louw, the Africa consultant of the WPFC said in a statement on Wednesday. Cabinet said on August 4 that the "government wishes to express its outrage" at the manner in which reports about these plots have been aired. It said the reports were "without any credible substantiation from security agencies in our country and in Pakistan" and further called on the media "to exercise restraint in dealing with these matters". Louw said: "Before publishing the latest plot allegations, journalists had called the Presidency and other government departments who referred them to security agencies which refused to comment on the record.
"When one newspaper eventually persuaded two government spokesmen to comment officially, they said they had no official confirmation of the threats." He said in view of the circumstances, the WPFC "regards the government's action as threatening and an unwarranted attempt to coerce the media into self-censorship". "It notes, too, that the government appears to have ignored guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of the media contained in SA's constitution," he said. The WPFC is based in Washington DC in the United States and includes 45 journalistic organisations on six continents representing labour and management in the print and broadcasting media.

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