The President Cyril Ramaphosa said In many countries around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has required the limitation of many civil liberties and put social cohesion to the test.
He said countries with strong institutions, vigilant judicial systems and a robust media have been able to prevent human rights from being undermined and the authority of the state being abused.
However, it has been six months since the national state of disaster was proclaimed. Despite the unprecedented nature of the disease and the immense challenge of placing a country of 58 million people under lockdown,
“We have fared well. We have managed to contain the spread of the disease primarily because of the cooperation and vigilance of all citizens,” said Ramaphosa.
This is in no small part due to the sterling work of the media.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to South Africa’s hard-working and tenacious journalists. They have kept our people informed by disseminating key health messages about social distancing and hygiene. They have done so under extremely trying conditions, often with limited resources,” he said.
They have told the stories of the effects of lockdown on the lives of people and their businesses. They have been out in the villages, towns and cities, bringing stories of ordinary people and drawing national attention to problems being experienced in hospitals and clinics, prompting government action.
According to Ramaphosa, media have also shone a light on excesses that perhaps would not have ordinarily come to light. They have fulfilled their watchdog role by unearthing acts of corruption and maladministration, sparking a massive national debate and leading to a number of high-profile investigations. Through this reporting they have earned people’s trust.
“A free press is not an end in itself. It is a means by which democracy is secured and upheld. During this pandemic, our media has played not just its traditional watchdog role, but exercised its civic duty in supporting the national effort to contain the coronavirus,” said Ramaphosa.