Foreign Policy Blogs

Long Live South Africa's Free Press

If you blinked in the past month, you probably missed the battle for freedom of the press that is raging in South Africa. Earlier this month, the editors of South Africa’s major publications issued a statement of protest dubbed the Auckland Park Declaration.

The Declaration was issued in response to clauses in the Protection of Information Bill and the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal. The advocacy organization Freedom House is expressing concern over the situation:

The Protection of Information bill, put forward by the Ministry of Intelligence and currently under consideration by the South African parliament, is a revised version of a bill initially submitted in 2008, which was rejected due to concerns it would lead to excessive official secrecy. Several provisions in the bill are cause for serious concern, including an overly broad definition of “national interest” with regards to classifying information and heavy penalties of up to 25 years in prison for the publication or dissemination of official or classified information. Additionally, those seeking to access or declassify information face several obstacles, including bearing the burden of proof that public interest outweighs national security concerns.

But this story goes beyond an out of touch government that treats press freedom like they are imperialists. The unapologetic response from  members of the South African media is what’s most striking. Instead of shrinking from the controversy, they are running headlong into it, refusing to accept unreasonable limitations.

As stated in the Auckland Park Declaration:

Free speech and access to information are the lifeblood of our democracy and we are at the very heart of the struggle for freedom. Human dignity is indivisible from freedom of speech.

Those in the government pushing this legislation should pause and comprehend the implications of the journalistic community at large publicly standing up against them.

What gives the position of South Africa’s journalists strength is that they are not defending their reputations or jobs or political influence, but rather lofty ideals that serve the public interest. And they are right, regardless of the cooked-up reasons the government might profess. Just ask the country’s most prominent writers, who have come out in defense of the media, according to Eyewitness News:

Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer and Man Booker Prize winner Andre Brink are leading the protest opposing government’s draft Protection of Information Bill and the ANC’s proposed media tribunal. It is being supported by fellow writers Zakes Mda, Breyten Breytenbach, Mandla Langa and many others.In a statement, the writers said that if the work and freedom of a writer is in jeopardy, then the freedom of every reader in South Africa is in danger.

For the sake of democracy, the journalists, and every reader in South Africa–long live the free press.



Genevieve Belmaker

Genevieve Belmaker is a freelance journalist and contributing editor with The Epoch Times ( She also contributes to Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists and Her blog on journalism is

Genevieve has traveled throughout the U.S., Asia, Central America, Israel and the West Bank for reporting assignments, including major investigative reports on the recovery of New Orleans, the encroaching presence of China in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the dangerous import of melamine-contaminated milk into the U.S. and settlement outposts in the West Bank. She regularly reports on issues related to journalism, and the work of journalists.

She holds a BA from the University of Southern California in International Relations, and has been a member of several prominent national and international professional media organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the New York Press Club, and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and son.

Areas of Focus:
New Media; Journalism; Culture and Society