South Africa | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

South Africa

South Africa

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status


Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Freedom of expression and the press, protected in the constitution, is generally respected. Nevertheless, several apartheid-era laws that remain in effect permit authorities to restrict the publication of information about the police, national defense forces, and other institutions, while the Criminal Procedure Act may be used to compel journalists to reveal sources. In 2003, a significant controversy emerged around the issuing of subpoenas to journalists by the Heffer Commission of Inquiry, set up by the government to investigate whether a high-ranking government official was an apartheid-era spy. National, regional, and international press freedom groups condemned the commission's ruling that journalist Ranjeni Munusamy, among others, would be forced to reveal confidential sources in court; however, the ruling was overturned in December. A variety of private newspapers and magazines are sharply critical of the government, political parties, and other societal actors. Radio broadcasting has been dramatically liberalized, with scores of small community radio stations now operating. The state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is today far more independent than during apartheid but still suffers from self-censorship. Press freedom groups expressed concern that a proposed anti-terrorism bill posed a serious threat to democratic media. Reporters continue to be subjected to occasional instances of threats and harassment.