On Wednesday, October 19, 1977, a year and four months after the Soweto uprising and two months after the arrest of Steve Biko, the apartheid government swooped. It banned Black Consciousness organisations and newspapers critical of its regime including The World, the largest circulation black newspaper; detained its editor Percy Qoboza among activists, journalists and critics of its policies and brutality.
This day is commemorated today as “Black Wednesday” or National Press Freedom Day and serves as a reminder of the role of an independent media in our democracy, and how we got to be where we are today with a Constitution that protects the right to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and other media.
The media in South Africa in 2020 operates in an entirely different political, economic and technological environment to that of the 1970s and 80s, but this does not mean the importance of journalism has changed. The press must continue to serve society through the reporting of news in our communities, by holding those who are in power to account, and by contributing to an open and transformed society.
At Independent Media, this is what we aim to do and we are proud to be part of a group that pursues this agenda without fear or favour and despite attacks on its owner, its editors and its journalists.
On this Press Freedom Day we recommit to readers of our…. title and digital platforms that, in this critical time of inequality, hardship and wrongdoing, we will hold ourselves to high standards of accurate, fair and balanced reporting.
Like the leading black journalists under apartheid in whose fearless footsteps we follow, we will not be intimidated or oppressed by vested interest groups and bullies out there who seek to silence us.
By Val Bojé, editor of Pretoria News.