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Hlaudi Motsoeneng
Chief Operating Officer
South African Broadcasting Corporation
Auckland Park
South Africa
July 14, 2014
Via email
Dear Sir,
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes
press freedom worldwide, is writing to express its concern at recent statements against media
freedom that you made at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
On July 3, at the annual Joburg Radio Days event, you said South African media should be
more regulated and that journalists should have a license to practice their work. Your
comments came a few days before you were permanently appointed to the role of chief
operations officer of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the national broadcaster
whose radio and TV services reach the furthest corners of the country.
South Africa must not become a country to which repressive governments can point in their
efforts to legitimize press freedom violations. CPJ research shows that repressive
governments use licensing as a way to suppress critical reporting.
The right to express opinions and share information is guaranteed universally under Article
19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, under Article 9 of the African Charter on
Human and People's Rights, and by South Africa's Constitution (Article 16). The right to
"freedom of the press and other media" and the freedom "to receive or impart information or
ideas" are in Chapter 2 of South Africa's constitution, which states that the "Bill of Rights is a
cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country
and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom."
The notion of licensing journalists has been tried before--and rejected. In 1985, the Inter-
American Court of Human Rights examined a case in Costa Rica andfound that freedom of
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expression, unlike the practice of a profession, is a fundamental human right. The court
also found that giving licenses to some journalists and denying them to others denies
individuals "the full use of the mass media as a means of expressing themselves or imparting
Media freedom is a critical element in the fabric of the new society currently under
construction in South Africa. In just two decades, the repressive, racist system of apartheid
has given way to a multi-party, non-racial democracy that thrives on the contestation of ideas.
We believe that, in Nelson Mandela's words, "a critical, independent, and investigative press
is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must
have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must
have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or
As longtime advocates for media freedom in South Africa, which stretches back to our
support for journalists persecuted by the apartheid regime in the early 1980s, CPJ urges you
to nurture the country's hard-won freedom and the role of lively, critical, and courageous
media. It is the job of journalists to ask questions on behalf of citizens and to hold
accountable those in power so that the benefits of democracy and development are shared
equally among all communities.
Yours sincerely,
Joel Simon
Executive Director
CC List:
Faith Muthambi, minister of communications in South Africa
Joyce Clementine Moloi-Moropa, chairwoman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on
Gwede Mantashe, Secretary General of the African National Congress
Joe Thloloe, director of the Press Council
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Mthatha Tsedu, executive director of South African National Editors Forum
Katy Katopodis, secretary-general of South African National Editors Forum
Gavin Davis, shadow minister of communications of the Democratic Alliance
Marion Shin, shadow minister of telecommunications and postal services, Democratic
Mbuyiseni Quintin Ndlozi, national spokesman of the Economic Freedom Fighters
Marka Weinberg, national coordinator of Right2Know Campaign

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