CONGRATULATIONS to Bongani Fuzile and deputy political editor Mphumzi Zuzile for winning the print general news award for investigative journalism for your exposure of the Mandela funeral fund scandal (“Probing Dispatch journalists win award’’ (Daily Dispatch, November 3).
As a public representative for the DA my colleagues and I are constantly verbally abused by the ANC in the Eastern Cape Legislature for defending the constitutional rights of the media.
Recently in the Legislature ANC parliamentarians attacked the Daily Dispatch for “being counter revolutionary”.
The Dispatch is referred to as undermining the ANC and having a hidden agenda to bring the governing party into disrepute while the white capitalist fourth estate is hell-bent on controlling the world masses. Talk about being paranoid! It is precisely when the free press tells us what we don’t want to hear, when it is exposing government misconduct and refusing to be the unofficial mouthpiece of any government that the press stands in need of protection.
A press that is the house organ for the government doesn’t need it. A press that only reports good news, that ignores scandals and corruption, that is the cheerleader for every misadventure and stands silent when our freedoms are threatened by the very government we created to protect us, has no need of public protection.
It is only when journalists like Bongani and Mphumzi dare to speak truth to power and reveal the truth about those who wield that power that we as citizens are free to make informed decisions.
In our nation government derives its “just powers” – to borrow Jefferson’s phrase from the Declaration of Independence – from the consent of the governed.
But the governed must have the information necessary to make wise decisions about those they elect and the policies they want pursued.
Unless the consent of the people is informed consent, the democratic basis of a free society is very shaky.
That is why the freedom of the press is important. Not to protect the rights of newspapers, reporters, radio and television stations and the like, but to protect the rights of the people to have the information they need to make informed decisions about their government.
Regardless of how poorly the press does its job, the principle of freedom of the press cannot be abandoned because without it, we have no real protection. An uninformed electorate is not properly empowered.
Ultimately, the freedom of the press, like all our freedoms, depends on the vigilance and determination of each of us to preserve the liberties and freedoms to which we are constitutionally entitled. A free press can only exist in a free society. A free society cannot flourish without a free and independent press. Each is indispensable to the other.
Keep up the fight or give up the right. Thank you Mphumzi and Bongani for doing what is right and keeping us informed.
We don’t want to be a nation of sheep because that will mean we will breed a government of wolves. – Kobus Botha, DA MPL Bhisho Legislature