Government has emphasised the importance of media in sharing credible information with the public Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Director General, Phumla Williams, said in a statement on Monday.

“In an era of instant information sharing, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for trustworthy and fact-checked news for public good is crucial”.

Williams made her comments as government joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day under the theme, ‘Information as a Public Good’.

Press Freedom Day

Importance of press freedom

This year’s Press Freedom Day is a call to affirm the importance of valuing information as a public good, realising the importance of having access to credible information, especially in an era of misinformation and disinformation.

“At the core of what is termed fake news is the devastating impact that it leaves on individuals, the public and democracy. In response to misinformation across borders, journalism provides the most effective means of ensuring that public debate is based on established facts,” Williams said.

May 3 is a day set aside to realise and raise the importance of press freedom.

“The GCIS welcomes its regular interactions with the media through platforms that cater for strengthening relationships, while also allowing us to speak about the work of government and to share our successes and challenges,” Williams said.

Press freedom during the pandemic

Government has acknowledged the good work of the South African media during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whilst government continues to respond to the deadly pandemic, journalists continue to be at the forefront in the fight against the virus by seeding information about the state of national preparedness, precautionary and educative measures to be taken, and general information about the pandemic”.

“Government once again thanks all frontline journalists, who have been working diligently to inform the nation about COVID-19 and help citizens understand the spread and impact of the virus. Government also remembers the brave journalists that have lost their lives while bringing reliable information to our homes,” the GCIS said.

A constitutional right

The 2021 commemoration coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press.

The seminar in 1991 served as a catalyst to encourage press freedom, independence and pluralism in Africa and in other parts of the world.

“Government remains steadfast in its commitment to uphold press freedom, which is enshrined in our Constitution. Since 1994, the government has been resolute in the belief that an independent and free media are vital partners in strengthening any democracy,” the GCIS said.

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Presh JM Reporter

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