PRAAG deeply concerned about SA press preedom

MEDIA RELEASE BY PRAAG (PRO-AFRIKAANS ACTION GROUP) ON 3 MAY 2010

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day being celebrated today, PRAAG has expressed its “deep concern about South African press freedom”. Speaking in Johannesburg, the leader of the Pro-Afrikaans Action Group, Dr. Dan Roodt, stated: “Free debate and expressing dissident opinions are increasingly being curtailed in South Africa. The ruling party controls the South African Broadcasting Corporation whereas the increasing monopoly of Naspers over especially the Afrikaans-language media has led to a decline in quality and a rise in intolerance.”

Artists, writers and columnists are either stifled or defamed, often by muck-raking articles about their private lives or spurious accusations of being “racists”. “Ranging from columnist David Bullard to singer Steve Hofmeyr, large sections of the media have tried to vilify those who are not part of the cabal manufacturing consent in our country,” said Roodt. “The totalitarian spirit is alive and well in South Africa and being promoted by both unreconstructed communists in the ruling ANC/SACP and the former sycophants of apartheid, such as Naspers. Paradoxically, it is far more difficult for critical voices to get published or heard today than it was under the former National Party government. If it were not for the internet, there would hardly have been media diversity in South Africa.”

Roodt called upon “authors, singers, journalists and columnists to take a strong stand in favour of freedom of speech. We should use the South African Constitution and all legal means to fight the encroachment of a one-party state and monopolistic, exclusionary tactics from the private sector. Lawyers should also make a contribution to defending press freedom in the Constitional Court and to lay charges against the media monopoly at the Competition Board.”

The leader of PRAAG also paid tribute to poet and philosopher N.P. van Wyk Louw who was in many respects the father of “open discussion” in South Africa. “Already in the 1940s, Van Wyk Louw understood how fragile freedom of speech in this country was, given its ethnic and racial diversity. His notion of ‘open discussion’ laid the ground rules for tolerance and intellectual enquiry in South Africa. It is an absolute scandal that the annual Van Wyk Louw memorial lecture should also have been hijacked by government ideologues at the University of Johannesburg, making a mockery of his heritage.”