Press freedom guaranteed but fragile
South Africa’s 1996 constitution protects press freedom. An investigative journalism culture is well established but apartheid-era legislation and terrorism laws are used to limit coverage of governments institutions when “national interest” is supposedly at stake. The state security agency spies on some journalists and taps their phones. Others are harassed and subjected to intimidation campaigns if they try to cover certain subjects involving the ruling African National Congress (ANC), government finances, the redistribution of land to the black population or corruption. It is not unusual for journalists, especially women journalists, to be mocked, insulted and even threatened on social media, sometimes by politicians or their supporters. The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party was given a high court warning in 2019 because of its invective and hate speech against journalists. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis did not spare journalism in South Africa, one of the African countries that were hit hardest by the pandemic. Rubber bullets were fired at a reporter covering compliance with lockdown measures and a community newspaper editor even had to flee abroad after being threatened by the police for covering a lockdown-related story. This was unprecedented for a South African journalist since the end of apartheid. A new law provides for sentences of up to six months in prison for spreading fake news about the pandemic.
31 in 2020
22.41 in 2020