DA aims at wrong tar­gets

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

THE DA’s Phumzile van Damme called for a boy­cott of The New Age news­pa­per this week and its as­so­ciate TV chan­nel ANN7. Van Damme was speak­ing in her ca­pac­ity as the party’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion spokesper­son, fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions in the Na­tional Assem­bly that the de­part­ment of com­mu­ni­ca­tions had spent close to R1mil­lion on a sin­gle busi­ness break­fast brief­ing.

Her anger is un­der­stand­able, par­tic­u­larly given the slew of hacked e-mails plac­ing the Gupta fam­ily, the own­ers of TNA and ANN7, at the cen­tre of a ver­i­ta­ble web of state cap­ture – the scale of which is ef­fec­tively klep­to­cratic.

The prob­lem is that her wrath is mis­di­rected – and in­deed ven­tures into very dan­ger­ous ter­ri­tory in­deed. Me­dia free­dom doesn’t mean the free­dom to pub­lish news and views with which peo­ple agree, rather the con­trary – to pub­lish views and news (whether fake or not) which you might ab­hor – as long as that con­tent doesn’t break the con­sti­tu­tional in­ter­dicts against hate speech or racial ha­tred.

If we de­cide to­day to al­low a pogrom against one me­dia house, we can­not de­fend an­other me­dia house the next day against a sim­i­lar boy­cott.

Boy­cotting TNA or ANN7, as Van Damme would have us do, is the wrong call to ac­tion – the cor­rect tar­gets are the min­is­ters who signed off on the ex­pen­di­ture, if it can be proved to be un­jus­ti­fi­able and a waste of tax­pay­ers’ money ,which we all as­sume it to be.

Sadly though for too many South Africans, we pre­fer to at­tack prox­ies or in this case, lit­er­ally, the mes­sen­ger.

Many peo­ple ab­hor both TNA and ANN7, but there are oth­ers who don’t.

All we can ask is that both or­gans be forced to com­pete fairly in the mar­ket­place of ideas with­out gov­ern­ment sup­port that can­not be jus­ti­fied by their au­di­ence or read­er­ship.

That does not mean the gov­ern­ment can­not ad­ver­tise or use ei­ther, just as it can­not be stopped from ad­ver­tis­ing or sup­port­ing any of the other me­dia in this coun­try. We need a diver­sity of voices, which is what guar­an­tees and in­deed proves our free­dom. Try­ing to muz­zle those voices does the ex­act op­po­site.

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