Very few governments favour a free and unrestricted press. After all, the media criticizes their performance and policies, exposes their corruption and abuse of power, and provides a voice for opposing views. A free press gives citizens the ability to make informed decisions about their society’s developments. It is worrisome therefore to consider that media freedom is under threat in most parts of the world today,even in countries like South Africa, where freedom of expression and of the press are protected in the constitution.Over the past few years, there has been a relentless assault on independent news media by the country's government through a steady flow of gag orders, court interdicts, and new legislation.
As a young democracy, South Africa initially set the tone for how inviolable the freedom of the press is to society. At his address to the International Press Institute Congress, former president, Nelson Mandela, had this to say, "A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy."
In recent years the passing of the the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, which allows state agencies to classify a wide range of information – including: “all matters relating to the advancement of public good” and “the survival and security of state” – is in direct contrast to his statement – a step back toward the draconian laws of the apartheid era.
When the freedom of the press is censored, society is denied its ability to make informed decisions. Information dissemination is controlled by government, whose sole objective is to conceal the corruption that has infiltrated its ranks.