Only about two-thirds of South Africans believe that citizens should have the right to criticise their government, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Centre.
According to the results of a study that looked at attitudes to democratic principles and freedom of speech across 38 countries, only 64% of South Africans supported the proposition that “people should be able to make statements that criticise the government’s policies”.
Exactly half of South Africans, however, were accepting of the idea that statements criticising their own religion should be allowed. A total of 42% believed that it was acceptable to make public calls for violent protests.
South Africans proved the most conservative when it came to public discussions around sex, with only 36% asserting the right of people to make public statements that are “sexually explicit”.
The majority of South Africans supported democratic rights such as religious freedom, gender equality, fair elections and the unacceptability of censorship.
Over three-quarters of South Africa, 78%, said it was “very important that people can practice religion freely”.
Just over two-thirds of the population also supported the idea that “women [should] have the same rights as men”.
ELECTIONS, FREEDOM OF SPEECH, LOCAL MEDIA
With the end of apartheid largely celebrated as being marked by the country’s first democratic election in April 1994, it is perhaps surprising that only 58% of South Africans believe that “honest elections” with at least two parties are “very important”.
A total of 56% of the country’s citizens believed it was very important that people had freedom of speech not controlled by censorship. Overall, 60% believed the media had the same right.
Furthermore, 70% of South Africans believed the local media should be able to report on “large political protests”. However, this support dropped when it came to the right to publish information that might “destabilize the country’s economy” – with 59% of the population supporting this.
The lowest proportion of citizens, 53%, believed that “sensitive issues related to national security” should be put into the public arena by the media.
Overall, South Africans were one of the strongest supporters of the freedom of speech and media, internationally.
A total of 40 786 respondents were interviewed, both telephonically and in face-to-face interviews between April and May 2015 for the study. News24