Amnesty International South Africa has called on government and politicians to publically reaffirm trust in the media as the world marks Press Freedom Day. Amnesty International reiterated the call that independent journalists must be allowed to do their work free of harassment, intimidation, threats and reprisals.

When the entire country was forced into hard lockdown restrictions, many South African’s turned to their news channels and social media platforms to find out what was happening outside their walls. However, in many countries, the press was silenced. Despite everyone relying on media for information, there were many jobs lost during the pandemic.

SABC Digital News Editor Nontobeko Magala says they have had their fair share of challenges in the past year since the COVID-19 outbreak, and some positive gains.

Magala on working in a Digital News environment during COVID-19:

“Amongst which was the retrenchment process, this ever-present labouring threat over everyone’s livelihoods. However, we were able to produce a lot of original content like we have never done before. We came out with video shows, podcasts and animated series and different kinds of things. And of cause, we used visualization tools a lot and digital cards that we put out every day to dispel the myths around COVID-19 and we had those translated into different African languages,” says Magala.

Qaanitah Hunter, political editor at News24, says the loss of jobs in the media environment is a call for concern.

“We have far less resources as a collective to tell stories to investigate and properly execute our mandate. You see it on community-level where community stories are not being tapped because they do not have the resources.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International South Africa says the media has been maligned by politicians and face targeted harassment on social media.

Media and Communications Officer Genevieve Quintal explains. “While the media in South Africa enjoys more freedom than many of their counterparts in the continent and in other parts of the world, they are still finding themselves facing a barrage of attacks on a daily basis, especially on social media. And this comes at a time when the trust in media has weighed in the past few years, especially because of misinformation and disinformation. So as amnesty we are calling on the government and the political party to publicly recommitting to ensuring respect for media freedom as enshrined in our constitution.”

Media freedom in South Africa | Genevieve Quintal:

The media, digital and mainstream, remains the main source of information for many South Africans. If restricted, blocked or silenced, many who rely on the vital information of what happens around them, may not access it.

UNGA President Volkan Bozkir on World Press Freedom Day: