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Beware of censorship: US ambassador

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South Africa has to be wary of attempts to censor the media such as SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s recent suggestion that journalists be licensed, US ambassador Patrick Gaspard said on Tuesday.

“I was stunned that all of you weren’t outside of the SABC headquarters the next morning,” he said at the Nieman Society AGM in Johannesburg.

“Governments around the world are looking to control any story they can.”

Motsoeneng recently suggested all journalists be licensed and that government revoke these licences should they behave unprofessionally.

Gaspard quoted journalist and writer Nat Nakasa, who died in exile in New York in 1965, saying people should speak up in a “loud and thunderous voice” should anyone or any government hint at censorship.

“Muscular vigilance” was needed to maintain press freedom, he said.

“My caution to your country and my own is too often we’re neglectful of the rights that we have.”

Gaspard said the relationship between South Africa and the US was still strong despite his recent spat with Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Kebby Maphatsoe. Maphatsoe had accused Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of being a CIA spy.

“Irrespective of comments made by some irresponsible people… Our relationship is still strong,” he said of the two nations. SAPA

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