The recent Hawks raid of Jacques Pauw's home sends an ominous message indicating the government's disregard for everyone's right to freedom of expression and undermines the media's responsibility to inform the public of issues that are of interest and importance to them.
Pauw's office was raided by three officers from the Hawks' "crime against the state" unit, reportedly looking for "secret state security files" they believed to be in Pauw's possession. Nobody is above the law, and if the government is going to raid Pauw's home in search of "supposed secret documents in the possession of the author", then they should also pay a visit to the many politicians whom they have allowed to escape the rule of law.
The South African Institute of Race Relations' Michael Morris says: "The raid bodes ill for South Africa, at the very moment when so many had pinned their hopes on a post-Jacob Zuma era of open, accountable government, and an environment that would encourage, not deter, the holding of the powerful to account.
"It is accepted that no journalist, or any other citizen, is above the law. It is also true, however, that the intimidation of journalists or writers – especially those who have demonstrated signal courage in exposing the corruption that has cost South Africans dearly over the past decade – is the expedient of authoritarian governments that either have something to hide, or are less afraid of curbing the truth than owning up to the consequences of the truth being told. In such conditions, a climate of fear and intimidation undermines society's confidence in its freedoms and its future.
"South Africa, of course, is no stranger to the devastating political and economic consequences of such conditions. The ANC government would do well to reflect on what is required of it to equal a battered and long-suffering South Africa's newfound optimism of recent weeks, and to digest the evidently unpalatable truth that the country is counting on it to demonstrate vigour in tackling those guilty of corruption – not the courageous few who have exposed it."
Right2Know campaign coordinator Murray Hunter told HuffPost: "It is the job of journalists to expose unjust secrets. This police raid is basic intimidation and harassment. This is exactly the climate of censorship that we rose up against to stop the secrecy bill.
"When journalists used classified documents to expose corruption, the police will never go after the corruption like they go after those documents. We say to the Hawks, respect media freedom and get off the backs of journalists. Go deal with the corruption that is reported in the book."
Our government has a duty to promote the guaranteed rights and affirm the democratic values of human dignity, which include freedom of expression, assembly, association, justice and the rule of law.
The state's approach to certain human rights has been inconsistent through the years in tackling critical human-rights issues that a country with the kind of constitution that SA has should be able to champion. Instead, they have chosen to employ selective prosecution using their political machinery to intimidate and persecute those not favourable to them.
This event appears regressive to progressive gains that were guaranteed in Chapter 2 of the Constitution – as fundamental rights that need to be upheld and protected.