Members of Sanef outside the high court in Johannesburg before it was granted an interdict against BLF. Photo: Lindi Masinga / ANA
There is a lot of contestation in the arena of public opinion at the moment. There are many who have very strong views against the so-called establishment media, claiming this sector prefers one narrative to the exclusion of others which are at best ignored or even suppressed.

They are entitled to hold and express those views, just as media companies have every right to espouse their own agendas in a free-market environment.

We have a constitutional right to freedom of expression and a constitutional provision for a free press. There is a reason - we are the product of centuries of state repression abetted by a press muzzled and beaten into compliance.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the state-authorised murder of Black Consciousness icon Steve Biko. Had it not been for the efforts of a handful of courageous journalists and editors - in the face of overwhelming state pressure - the world, our own people, would not have learnt of this.

Journalists can make mistakes. They are human and not beyond reproach. But there are mechanisms to deal with these isolated cases. On Friday, the SA National Editors’ Forum won an interdict against Black First Land First (BLF) and its founder, Andile Mngxitama, in the High Court in Joburg.

It was interdicted from harassing, intimidating, assaulting and threatening 11 senior journalists, editors and commentators it had targeted for reporting on “state capture”. The intimidation began just over a week ago outside the Joburg home of Peter Bruce, one of the country’s most distinguished editors, when BLF members daubed slogans on his walls and protested in the street.

An investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. It must be free from state interference and have the strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials.

It must enjoy the protection of the constitution so it can protect our rights as citizens.

Those aren’t our words, but those of Nelson Mandela.

You can’t expect a free press when journalists are fair game for anyone with an axe to grind. They are not perfect but must be allowed to do their jobs - that’s not negotiable.