April 21, 2024

Press Freedom

South Africa

South Africa March 10, 2006

H.E.Thabo Mbeki
Office of the President
Private Bag X83/ X1000
Union Buildings , Government Avenue
Pretoria 0001
Republic of South Africa
Fax: (011.27.12) 323-8246

Your Excellency:

We write to protest the banning by the Johannesburg High Court of publication of the controversial Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in several of your country’s newspapers. While we understand the sensitivities that have been offended by these cartoons, we must insist that the free media must have the right to dispense facts, opinions and images, even when they are offensive, without official interference or retribution. The Overseas Press Club of America has been defending journalists and press freedom around the world for more than 65 years.

After one of the cartoons appeared in the Friday edition of the independent weekly, Mail and Guardian, a Muslim group, the Jamiat-ul Ulama of Transvaal, applied for the injunction to prevent their publication in The Sunday Times and The Sunday Independent. Neither paper had been planning to print the cartoons, but both said they would fight the injunction to defend their right to publish. We applaud that stand and hope you will publicly endorse it.

Your Excellency, this controversy has been provocative in its origins, mischievous in its exploitation and tragic in its consequences. We hope it may subside without further damage. But it would be harmful indeed if the episode served to justify suppression of the basic human right of freedom of expression. We hope you will continue to work for moderation and non-violence in protesting the cartoons, but we also urge you to underscore the value of a free exchange of views.

Thank you for your attention. We hope you will reply.

Respectfully yours,
Larry Martz
Norman Schorr
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:   Barbara Joyce Masima Masekela

Ambassador of South Africa to the U.S.A.

Embassy of the Republic of South Africa

3051 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington , DC 20008

Fax: (202) 265-1607


Ambassador Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the Republic of South Africa

to the United Nations

333 E. 38 th St. 9 th Floor

New York , NY 10016

Fax: (212) 692-2498   



Jendayi E. Frazer

U.S. Ambassador to South Africa

Embassy of the United States of America

877 Pretorius Street

Arcadia , Pretoria

South Africa

Fax: (011. 27.12) 342-2299