By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has spoken out about the intimidation journalists, saying the trend is unacceptable and harmful, especially when threats are directed at women journalists.
"The South African media has played a pivotal role in uncovering much of what we know today about the true extent of capture of the State by self-serving, corrupt individuals and entities, "Ramaphosa said.
In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa said if media is to remain true to its responsibility to support democracy, journalists must continue to report without fear or favour on the issues of the day.
"Their sustained coverage must include gender-based violence, crime in our communities, and social ills, like substance abuse.
"Our media should provide accurate and impartial information, enabling the public to make informed decisions, to access opportunities and improve their lives.
"They should continue to produce journalism that goes beyond the headlines and front pages, and contributes to human development. They should report both the good news and the bad news, the progress we make and the challenges we face, "Ramaphosa said.
He said credibility is key to sustaining trust between journalists and the public.
"When journalists allow themselves or their platforms to be used to fight political battles or settle scores on behalf of vested interests, their credibility suffers.
"When media disseminate stories that are inaccurate or that they know to be false, the public loses faith in them. It is in the best interest of all who love this country and wish for it to succeed that our media is supported, and not hindered in its work.
"As society, let us continue to work together to jealously safeguard our country’s media freedom. It was hard won, and without it, we cannot hope to flourish," the President said.
Ramaphosa said not just journalists but any member of the public is able to freely articulate their views, their opinions and their dissatisfaction without fear of retribution.
"At a time when we are working together to rebuild our economy and our society in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, a robust media is more critical than ever, "Ramaphosa said.
The organisation, Reporters without Borders, published the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, a barometer of the state of media freedom across the globe.
The report said that journalism is ‘totally blocked or seriously impeded’ in 73 countries and ‘constrained’ in 59 others.
In this latest report, South Africa ranked 32nd out of 180 countries. The index describes the state of media freedom in South Africa as 'guaranteed but fragile'.
Meanwhile this year’s Press Freedom Day is a call to affirm the importance of valuing information as a public good, realising the importance of having access to credible information, especially in an era of misinformation and disinformation.
May 3 is a day set aside to realise and raise the importance of press freedom.
Government has acknowledged the good work of the South African media during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Whilst government continues to respond to the deadly pandemic, journalists continue to be at the forefront in the fight against the virus by seeding information about the state of national preparedness, precautionary and educative measures to be taken, and general information about the pandemic.
The 2021 commemoration coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press.
The seminar in 1991 served as a catalyst to encourage press freedom, independence and pluralism in Africa and in other parts of the world.