Target: Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa
Goal: Stop surveillance and violence against members of the media in South Africa.
In theory, the citizens of South Africa enjoy the same “freedom of the press” rights as Americans do. In practice, however, being a member of the local media can often be risky. Over the past couple years, incidences of violence against journalists in South Africa have become more common, and the government itself has participated in activities that limit media freedom.
In 2010, a journalist for the Johannesburg’s Sunday Times was arrested for investigating a story involving high profile figures. Although he has been released, he continues to be monitored by the South African government. In 2013, a small community radio station headquarters was burned down. In 2014, a community media journalist was killed by police. Little has been said or done to address these instances, and the growing culture of fear among journalists has the potential to become very damaging. There are numerous other reports of harassment and intimidation against members of the media from both the state and powerful, politically-motivated individuals.
As if the fear of violence or harassment wasn’t enough, there is also legislation being considered in South Africa known as the “Secrecy Bill.” If passed, it would limit the dissemination of state information and further erode protections for journalists and whistleblowers. Critics of the bill fear it will severely reduce government transparency and access to information.
Freedom of the press is one of the most vital ways to empower people against oppression and corruption. Media entities must exist outside of the government, and be protected from violence and harassment in order for citizens to have access to unbiased information. Sign the petition below to urge the president of South Africa not to sign the Secrecy Bill into law, and to ensure all journalists are protected from violence and surveillance.
Dear President Zuma,
I am deeply concerned about the safety and rights of journalists in South Africa. It has come to my attention that incidences of violence against members of the media have increased dramatically in recent years. Cases like that of Mike Tshele, a community journalist killed by police, and Mzilikazi wa Afrika, a man arrested for attempting to cover a story involving high-profile figures, have me worried that freedom of the press may be in serious jeopardy.
A just society must maintain the right for its citizens to access unbiased information. This information cannot exist when media outlets are persecuted and scared into silence. In addition to violence, harassment and surveillance, the proposed “Secrecy Bill” is another threat to freedom. Limiting the access of information and protection for whistleblowers is the beginning of a process that will erode essential freedoms for South African people. I urge you to please reject the Secrecy Bill and instead take steps to ensure freedom of the press is preserved in South Africa.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Jennifer Moo