“A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy…. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution so that it can protect our rights as citizens. It is only such a free press that can temper the appetite of any government to amass power at the expense of the citizen …. It is only such a free press that can have the capacity to relentlessly expose excesses and corruption on the part of the government, state officials and other institutions that hold power …”.
These are wise words, passionately expressed. But the sentiments are being aggressively eroded. Freedom of speech, and of media in particular, are under threat like never before.
From Saudi Arabia and the UAE where governments unable to “control” Blackberry emails and so are banning them outright, to China’s promotion of its firewall software to block Internet activity in its sphere of influence, to South Africa where a new censorship bill is being pushed through parliament.
All of this as power shifts from the developed economies of the “west” towards the emerging markets of the east and south. Europe and the US are weakened, perhaps forever, and – as they fall – the freedoms which they guaranteed are guaranteed no more.
“If we want our journalism to mature, we should not be blackmailed. [But] we don’t care anymore because, if we do not do this, the media will steal our media that we fought so hard for. We pioneered progressive journalism in this country and, because we are pioneers, we must encourage the tribunal because of the rise of gutter journalism,” says Blade Nzimande, head of the South African Communist Partner and senior ANC cabinet member.
And we can hear the faint echo of “Animal Farm” as the revolutionaries adopt the vacant tools of their oppressors. For that quote at the top is from Nelson Mandela in February 1994.