Three years ago, speaking in Burma of all places, American President Barack Obama spoke of how "societies that repress journalists ultimately oppress other people as well".
At home, in the past week, we’ve seen a spate of attacks, both physical and with smears, on journalists, including on this magazine’s editor-at-large Peter Bruce and its former editor Tim Cohen. The full extent of the intimidation of the brave SABC journalist Suna Venter, who tragically died last week partly due to this stress, is an alarming sign of this trend.
Such violence has, of course, been par for the course in the most autocratic nations — think Sudan or Ethiopia. But in SA, it represents a disturbing new front when it comes to some groups’ intolerance towards the country’s constitution.
Of course, it doesn’t help that in the US, Donald Trump has set the worst possible example. This week, he tweeted a doctored video clip of himself punching someone with a superimposed logo of CNN. Trump, the vainglorious archetype of the sociopathic politician, is the sole reason why the US has fallen to 43rd in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom rankings — far below SA’s 31st.
But the good news is the ANC has vowed to act against the thugs. It’s crucial these aren’t empty words: as Obama put it, today it’s the press fighting for their rights, tomorrow it’s everyone else.