Issue Six - April 2008 - Media Freedom

The Fourth Estate’s freedom requires eternal vigilance. The previous year – 2007 – has become etched in the South African memory as the year the media confronted various challenges and obstacles. These ranged from the controversial Film and Publications Amendment Bill to the litigation about the Sunday Times’ coverage of the Minister of Health and its aftermath which included some concerning developments with respect to the freedom of the press. These developments included the prospect of an arrest of the Editor of the Sunday Times and/or senior journalists, the statements published by key civil servants after a court order clearly and carefully sought to balance the Minister of Health's right to privacy and the public interest raising questions about their respect for the judiciary and the threat of government’s advertising revenue being withdrawn from the Sunday Times raised by the Minister in the Presidency, Essop Pahad. All these events increased the volume on the prospect of a new statutory regulatory body to be created – a Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT). This flurry of activity also sparked more debates when Koni Media launched a bid for then Johncom Ltd. (now Avusa Ltd).