Located on the southernmost coast of Africa, and off the Indian Ocean, South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution‘s recognition of 11 official languages, which is among the highest for any country in the world.
South Africa held its first elections on April 27, 1994; a period when Apartheid was finally abolished in the country, making it one of the youngest democracies in Africa.
South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; and a stock exchange that is Africa’s largest and among the top 20 in the world.
At – a – glance
Official languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Northern Sotho, Venda, Tsonga, Swati, Ndebel
Population: 53,675,563: 2013 (World Factbook)
National Anthem: Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika
Media and Freedom of Expression Landscape in South Africa
The South African constitution guarantees citizens’ right to freedom of expression and its media environment has been described as one of the most liberal on the continent. However in September 2012, the authorities passed the repressive Protection of State Information Bill and began implementing government-controlled Media Appeals Tribunals. These moves sought to stifle freedom of expression in South Africa and undoubtedly posed a serious threat to the enjoyment of the right to free expression in the country. These measures served as evidence of a backsliding in the country’s press freedom environment. Prior to the passage of these laws, South Africa downgraded from a free country to partly free according to the Freedom House’ Freedom of the Press Index 2010.
Despite these shortfalls in South Africa’s media environment, journalists and media professionals publicly criticise the government. Nevertheless, the government continues to restrict journalists’ ability to report on critical issues of national concern.
Media regulatory bodies in South Africa include the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which is mandated to regulate broadcasting, telecommunications and postal services in the country. The print media on the other hand is self-regulated under the Press Ombudsman since there is no statutory regulation in place for the print media.
The Print Media SA (PMSA), SA National Editors Forum (SANEF) and the Press Freedom Commission (PFC) are some professional bodies which also ensure that the media duly performs its functions.
Click here to read more about freedom of expression in South Africa.