There has been a lot of discussion in the media about press freedom and the proposed media appeals tribunal.
There has also been fervent debates in the media and by political parties about the Protection of Information bill and other legislation which is currently before Parliament.
We at Bush Radio have hosted a number of programmes about these issues because, as a community radio station, it is not simply the intellectual debates among politicians and the mainstream media which is important, but how these proposals and laws will affect the communities we serve – and consequently the repercussions on the operations of this little community radio station at the foot of Africa.
We need to ask how these documents impact your fundamental right to freedom of expression and access to information which is enshrined in South Africa’s constitution?
Most importantly, how will it affect your right to know?
We facilitate your access to information and are an outlet for your ideas, concerns and challenges and this process should not be hampered by officials who choose the kind of information to which you have access.
We need to ensure that our young broadcasters do not shy away from digging deeper because they are scared of being targeted by the authorities.
Bush Radio has always seen itself as the facilitators and foot soldiers of democracy and not merely watchdogs. From 1993 when the apartheid government would not budge on the issue of licensing community radio stations in South Africa, and we were forced to take a stand by broadcasting “illegally“. (Video: Partial Eclipse)
Striving for freedom of expression in South Africa had a global impact – leading to a change in how the United States Federal Communications Commission looked at community radio in their country. (see: http://bit.ly/cxLhjI )
Another important aspect of what we do is highlighting your rights as a responsible citizen in South Africa.
We cannot and will not force you to believe anything.
Our role is to provide you with access to Bush Radio and relevant information, help you digest this information and then you to make up your mind.
We cannot and will not support any proposed legislation or movement aimed at curtailing your right to express yourself in an open and democratic environment.
What has become clear to us in the midst of the freedom of expression debate raging in South Africa is that Bush Radio needs to do more.
We need to actively search out information on these issues from academics, NGOs, research organisations and politicians so that we can do our job.
And our job has always been to facilitate the process of our listeners, our community, making informed decisions.
The debate around the freedom of the media and freedom of expression should happen divorced of rhetoric, accusations and fears, which only serve to cloud what to many is a complex issue.
We recommit ourselves to facilitating your right to access to information, and ultimately to remain a vehicle through which you can exercise your right to freedom of expression.