No true democracy can survive without a free press.

March 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

A free press needs a democracy to survive. One cannot survive without the other. The free press needs to prod the government to keep it in check, to irritate it and give information to its citizens. Its duty is not to protect the rulers, rather to save them from themselves in turn saving the nation.

The ANCYL’s attempt to blackmail a journalist is out of step for a democracy. According to the Daily Maverick’s Kevin Bloom, this is the reason journalists sent a letter to ANC secretary general Gedwe Mantashe, “The journalists’ complaint was that Shivambu had threatened them when they questioned the authenticity of a dossier he’d attempted to leak. The subject of the dossier? The private life of City Press reporter Dumisani Lubisi, who, you may also remember, was instrumental in exposing Youth League president Julius Malema’s various business interests.” This is unacceptable. This is not a protest for a free press, nor is it against the ANCYL, it is a protest for democracy.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “A free press is one of the pillars of democracy.” He even went further to say, “A bad free press is preferable to technically good, subservient one.” Perhaps the ANCYL would do well to heed the words of this founder and former leader of this organization. A press that is easily intimidated into doing the bidding of the powerful does not deserve to call itself a press. What the YL fails to understand is that the press actually saves it from itself. Having said that, when those in power question journalists they should see it as a challenge to get better at what they do, safe guarding democracy.

One of the founding fathers of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson once said that, “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.” Only insecure leaders would chose former. Men and woman who do not deserve the title leader. Bullying is not a sign of strength, bullying is the sign of an insecure school yard kid. Just because the ANCYL is called the “youth” doesn’t give it any right to act immaturely.

The press is not dangerous, only dangerous leaders find it dangerous. If you have something to hide, then by all means you have every reason to fear the free press.

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