As South Africa commemorates Media Freedom Day, the government has thanked all frontline journalists who have been working diligently to inform the nation about COVID-19.

“Government thanks all frontline journalists who have been working tirelessly to keep the country updated and help citizens understand the spread and consequences of COVID-19,” Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Director-General, Phumla Williams, said.

On Monday, the government joined the media industry in commemorating and celebrating Media Freedom Day.

“We also remember those journalists that have lost their lives and those affected by the virus whilst providing the public with credible and reliable information,” Williams said.

Freedom Day, commonly referred to as Black Wednesday, marks the banning of a number of newspapers and arrests of their respective Editors as they were exposing the atrocities of the apartheid regime.

GCIS said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the need for trustworthy, fact-checked news and has played a crucial role in countering misinformation and disinformation that weakens expert advice and fuels the pandemic.

“Newsrooms across the country have made pandemic coverage a priority and this is a reminder of the role of media in our democracy and of the Constitution that protects the right to freedom of expression and the media.

“Media freedom is one of the cornerstones of democracy and this freedom should be guarded at all times. Government remains of the view that the hard fought for freedom of the press in 1977 played an instrumental role in the attainment of democracy in South Africa; and it is the very same freedom that still has a pivotal role in moving South Africa forward,” Williams said.

She said media freedom plays an important role in strengthening the country’s democracy and is an essential pillar for promoting accountability, nation building and strong public debate.

“Government welcomes regular formal interactions with the media, through the Presidency, to share ideas on issues of national interest. As we commemorate this important day, let us continue to further strengthen these relations and entrench the importance of independence of the media,” GCIS said.

Media Freedom Day commemorates the freedom enjoyed by the media industry in South Africa following a one-day crackdown in 1977 on publications and outlawing anti-apartheid groups by the apartheid regime.

“Today marks exactly 43 years since the brutal apartheid regime silenced independent voices by closing certain publications. On Wednesday, 19 October 1977, the apartheid regime showed its contempt for freedom of expression and media freedom when it banned The World, Weekend World as well as other publications and arrested Percy Qoboza who was the editor of The World and various other black consciousness activists,” GCIS said.

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