Media release

Government commemorates Media Freedom

19 October 2020

19 October 2020

Government joins the media industry in commemorating and celebrating the Media Freedom Day. The day was commonly referred as Black Wednesday following   the banning of a number of newspapers and arresting of their respective Editors as they   were exposing the atrocities of the Apartheid regime.

This day is set aside to commemorate the freedom enjoyed by the media industry in South Africa following a one-day crackdown in 1977 on publications and outlawing anti-apartheid groups by the apartheid regime.  Today marks exactly 43 years since the brutal apartheid regime silenced independent voices by closing certain publications. On Wednesday 19 October 1977, the apartheid regime showed its contempt for freedom of expression and media freedom when it banned The World, Weekend World as well as other publications and arrested Percy Qoboza who was the editor of The World and various other black consciousness activists.

This year, the media like many other industries, also faces adversity because of the  unintended consequences of the  Covid-19 pandemic. GCIS Director-General, Phumla Williams, said: “Government thanks all front line journalists who have been working tirelessly to keep the country updated and help citizens understand the spread and consequences of Covid-19. We also remember those journalist that have lost their lives and those affected by the virus whilst  providing the public with credible and reliable information.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the need for trustworthy, fact-checked news and has played a crucial role in countering misinformation and disinformation  that weakens expert advice and fuels the pandemic. “Newsrooms across the country have made pandemic coverage a priority and this is a reminder of the role of media in our democracy and of the Constitution that protects the right to freedom of expression and the media. Media freedom is one of the cornerstones of democracy and this freedom, should be guarded at all times.

Government remains of the view that the hard fought for freedom of the press in 1977 played an instrumental role in the attainment of democracy in South Africa; and it is the very same freedom that still has a pivotal role in moving South Africa forward,” added Williams. 

Williams added that media freedom plays an important role in strengthening the country’s democracy and is an essential pillar for promoting accountability, nation building and strong public debate. Government welcomes the regular formal interactions with the media, through the Presidency to share ideas on issues of national interest. As we commemorate this important day, let us continue to further strengthen these relations and entrench the importance of independence of the media.

Phumla Williams 
Cell: 083 501 0139

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