DA aims at wrong targets
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.