by MONITOR
WITH the euphoria of the World Cup over South Africa is returning to business as usual. President Jacob Zuma's government is preparing legislation that will enable it to prosecute journalists guilty of “inaccurate reporting” (up to 25 years imprisonment) or of being in possession of information classified as for the use of officials only. Last weekend the editors of 30 leading South African newspapers called on President Zuma to “abide by the founding principles of our democracy and abandon these proposed measures”. HIs response was an e-mail posing these questions: “Does the media have a role in promoting nation- building? Is it a spectator or does it have vested interests and an agenda, political and commercial, that it cherishes and promotes?” The answers to both these leading questions is “Yes” -- but not in the sense that president Zuma has in mind. Nation building will be greatly assisted, indeed may depend on, robust press interest in all its aspects, but not by state censorship; the press has vested interests but they are not necessarily different from the national interest, as the question implies. The road to prosecution for “inaccurate reporting” is the road to dictatorship as many countries have shown in the past. Does South Africa really want to take this direction? If it does it will relinquish its already tenuous claim to be the leader of a modern Africa built on democratic foundations.

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