Cope: Statement by Charlotte Lobe, Congress of the People General Secretary, on e.tv and the freedom of the press (21/01/2010)

21st January 2010

Back off! Freedom of the press is sacrosanct in South Africaand our hard fought democracy were not to muzzle the press when it puts out press that we don't like!
South Africa would like to be regarded as a nation of lions, not ostriches, and the inclination to muzzle the press - or even run and bury one's head in the sand - has to be fought as fiercely as any evil we have faced before as a nation! COPE is proud of the SAPS and their achievements in the fight against crime and has every confidence in the abilities of the SAPS to keep the citizens of SA safe during the World Cup, as well as our visitors in 2010 - in addition COPE believes that those same citizens of South Africa will be vigilant and everyone will do his or her part to make sure there is a safe 2010 World Cup!
That being said, we cannot ignore the fact that the world is a global village and self-serving members of various ideologies and political persuasions will perhaps evaluate the opportunities to make heard their self-serving messages with possible violence in so public a forum as the World Cup. Nor can we ignore the fact that there are unscrupulous criminals - as there are everywhere in the world - who could bring shame upon our country. We have to prepare for all possibilities and to that end, we repeat, we have faith in the mechanisms already in place to protect our citizens and our guests from harm.
Indeed the deputy Minister shows no confidence in the SAPS by going after the messenger, and not the criminal!! Today it is announced that one party to the E-TV expose has already been apprehended and we congratulate the SAPS for their swift action. One wonders whether E-TV will be congratulated for their role in this crime prevention measure??
Therefore when a public broadcaster alerts the citizens of SA to the dangers of these self-serving criminals, it must be greeted with appreciation, speculation, even sceptism perhaps... but not a writ which is served under the umbrella of an archaic LAW which served the Masters of Apartheid so well in the past.
To claim it is "unpatriotic, or indeed, against our laws" for E-TV to alert South Africans to the deviousness of criminal intentions, is beyond comprehension. Whether these threats as mentioned in the expose are indeed vague or well co-ordinated remains a matter for the SAPS
For E-TV to broadcast such information while protecting their sources is completely within the norms of journalism everywhere in the free world, and the Governments knee-jerk reaction is indeed disappointing.
We at Cope call upon the Government to re-consider its stance and withdraw its ............................... on E-TV.