Role of community media not to be forgotten as SA celebrates Black Wednesday: Sayed

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Veteran news editor of the community newspaper, The Muslim Views, Farid Sayed, says media is not entirely liberated until it probes the structural and systemic economic conditions in the country.

Sayed says he served as a journalist since 1975 under difficult circumstances during the apartheid regime. He claims community media is not fully recognised for the critical role it played in providing an alternative perspective during that period.

This comes as the media fraternity commemorates 45 years of Black Wednesday, a day also marked as National Press Freedom Day.

“When we look and reflect on black Wednesday 45 years ago, my disappointment is we haven’t moved. We had a militant apartheid regime coming down, jackboots and all, closing the media, stifling black voices. What we have now is a more subtle way – and maybe unintentional. I would be kind and say maybe unintentional but the voices of the people are still being stifled,” says Sayed.

Locals in Cape Town welcome the role of the media and say they hope it would translate into changing their socio-economic situation.

“The purpose of the media is to show what is happening in the world but at the same time I feel a lot of things are being hidden from the world by authorities,” argues one of the locals.

“We are disappointed. We might look like we are fine but we are not doing okay. It is because of everything happening in this county,” laments another Capetonian.

Black Wednesday remembers the day in 1977 when the apartheid government banned independent media which was reporting on the brutality of the regime. Many journalists were detained as part of the ban.

In a media statement issued by the Department of Communications, the government affirmed the right to press freedom and freedom of expression as an important cornerstone of democracy, noting that it is a constitutionally entrenched right and acknowledging the role of the media in holding the government accountable.

In the statement, the government also encouraged the media to continue to uphold the standards of ethical reporting.

“We recognise the media as partners in strengthening our democracy and promoting our rights, which many have fought and died for during the years of struggle. We embrace any platform that allows us to strengthen relationships with the media, while also allowing us to speak about the work of government and to share our successes and challenges,” says Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele.

Government concludes its statement by recognising the good work and diligence of the journalists that covered the COVID-19 pandemic, and said today is a day to remember the brave journalists who lost their lives whilst bringing reliable information to South African homes.