Reflections on Journalism in the Transition to Democracy

12/16/2004

New democracies pose a particular challenge for journalists. They are vulnerable and sometimes shaky. One wants them to work and, therefore, one is seeking to define not just what constitutes high-quality and interesting journalism but also how one can best contribute to helping democracy take root. In South Africa, journalists by and large emerged from many years of fighting against state, corporate, and political pressures under apartheid in the 1990s with a fierce commitment to independence. This sentiment was often strongest, predictably, in those institutions that had suffered the most political interference, such as the state broadcaster and the Afrikaans press, both of which had served largely as mouthpieces for the apartheid government.