19 October is Media Freedom Day in South Africa. In 2009 the day came and went, again, with little besides lip-service. Even the media, which should be most vocal in celebrating the occasion, gave it mere mentions. This is disappointing and something I would like to see changed.
The media plays an integral role in any democratic society and media freedom is a right that many have devoted, and in some cases given, their lives for. It is vitally important that we celebrate and protect our media freedom while fighting for the freedom of the press in countries like Zimbabwe where the state has crippled the media.
World Press Freedom day is on 3 May and also doesn’t receive the attention it deserves, in my opinion. In South Africa we celebrate media freedom on 19 October in memory of Black Wednesday on the same day in 1977 when the apartheid government in South Africa banned publications *The World , Pro Veritate *and *Weekend World *along with 19 black-rights organisations.
As the media I think we need to get off our intellectual high horses and plan something big for Media Freedom Day in 2010. As thinking people who see media freedom as obvious in importance we tend to forget that the public is largely apathetic to rights that are taken for granted, such as media freedom. Perhaps we should introduce a practice that takes place on the day, or at least there should be a celebratory concert of some sort with the intention of keeping media freedom front of mind.
Let us remember the events of Black Wednesday with more energy in the future and ensure that media freedom in South Africa continues to be protected. More importantly, let’s use the occasion to do more to fight for media freedom in countries where the press is oppressed.
We have a year in which to plan for Media Freedom Day in 2010. I look forward to suggestions of what could be done to celebrate it more convincingly.