News from Africa

35th Anniversary of Black Wednesday

South Africa

Té / 19 October 2012

Statement by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on the commemoration of Black Wednesday:

Today is the 35th Anniversary of Black Wednesday. On this day, 19th October 1977, the apartheid state gagged all media deemed to be promoting the struggle for democracy in this country.

Today we commemorate Black Wednesday as a democratic state with a Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression, including freedom of the press.

In this context we reiterate our sadness at the recent passing of Mr Zwelakhe Sisulu, a stalwart of our liberation struggle and an icon of a media tradition that contributed to the liberation of our country.

His legacy is marked by his humility, commitment to journalistic ethics and media freedom, and a passion first to attain and later to defend the values enshrined in our democratic Constitution.

We commemorate Black Wednesday to remind ourselves of the moral and historical imperative to deepen and protect this democracy at all times.

Government and the media accept one another’s bona fides and the respective, yet not divergent, roles we play in our society.

Government is encouraged by the steps taken by the print media to strengthen the regulation of journalistic practices. This is a step in the right direction, which will add impetus to the process of enhancing understanding between the general public and the media and between government and media.

This understanding is critical if we are to maintain a robust, participatory democracy in which all of us work together to build a better society and economy.

Our country is currently faced with a number of challenges that are the subject of a comprehensive social dialogue between government and social partners.

At a time such as this media have a vital role to play in helping the nation understand these challenges, point to potential solutions and maintain the perspective of the considerable achievements recorded since the dawn of democracy.

Government has a duty to all South Africans to cultivate a diversity of voices in public discourse. In an open democracy such as ours, it is essential that no voice goes unheard and that where we disagree, we do so without being disagreeable.

PRETORIA, South-Africa, October 19, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)

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