World Association of News Publishers

Protest Campaign - South Africa, 18 August 2010

Protest Campaign - South Africa, 18 August 2010

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His Excellency Jacob Zuma
President of the Republic of South Africa
Pretoria, South Africa

18 August 2010


Your Excellency,


We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at two recent moves by the ruling ANC that seriously threaten press freedom in South Africa.

The Protection of Information Bill currently before parliament seeks to replace apartheid-era legislation with far-reaching provisions that would virtually shield the government from press scrutiny and criminalize activities essential to investigative journalism.

Under the bill, officials would be empowered to classify any public or commercial data as confidential on vaguely defined "national interest" grounds without having to give any explanation. Such powers could be used to outlaw coverage such issues as public law enforcement and judicial matters, with political appointees having the final say over which information should be classified.

Journalists would have to establish "public interest" to justify declassifying information. Anyone found guilty of unauthorized disclosure of official or classified information could face up to 25 years in jail.

We are also seriously concerned at an ANC proposal that parliament appoint a Media Appeals Tribunal to adjudicate on complaints against the press. Such a government-appointed agency could be used as an instrument of political censorship, as has happened many times across Africa, and members would inevitably face an inherent conflict of interest. We respectfully remind you that an effective self-regulatory system, including a Press Ombudsman and an Appeals Panel, is already in place and has repeatedly been shown to act with neutrality.

We respectfully call on you to ensure that the Protection of Information Bill and the Media Appeals Tribunals proposal are either amended in line with constitutional safeguards for freedom of the press or withdrawn altogether. We ask that you ensure that any future media reform in South Africa fully respects international standards of press freedom.


We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.


Yours sincerely,


Gavin O'Reilly
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


Xavier Vidal-Folch
World Editors Forum


WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world's newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.


cc: Faith Pansy Tlakula, African Commission Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2010-08-24 00:00

Contact information

WAN-IFRA’s Declaration of Table Mountain is an earnest appeal to all Africans, particularly those in power, to recognise that political and economic progress flourishes in a climate where the press is free and independent of governmental, political or economic control. Read more ...

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...

The African Press Network (RAP21) is a digital network that supports a strong independent press throughout Africa by sharing, distributing and exchanging information between newspaper publishers, editors, journalists and human rights advocates. Read more ...