Squall saves Zuma from me­dia storm

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

ONE up­shot about the storm that bat­tered the West­ern Cape is that it pre­vented Ja­cob Zuma from fly­ing to Dur­ban for Wed­nes­day’s open­ing cer­e­mony of the 69th World News Me­dia Congress in Dur­ban, where he was due to ad­dress hun­dreds of in­ter­na­tional edi­tors, pub­lish­ers, aca­demics and me­dia pro­fes­sion­als.

They were thus spared the em­bar­rass­ment of shar­ing space with an in­di­vid­ual whose re­sent­ment of an in­de­pen­dent press is sec­ond na­ture.

The awk­ward fact that the ele­phant, so to speak, would have been in the room just as Turk­ish jour­nal­ist Can Dün­dar was handed the Golden Pen of Free­dom award by the World As­so­ci­a­tion of News­pa­pers and News Pub­lish­ers, or WAN-IFRA, would not have gone un­no­ticed.

It’s true that, just last week and ahead of the congress, Zuma told the Na­tional Assem­bly his gov­ern­ment took pride in the fact “me­dia free­dom is en­shrined in the con­sti­tu­tion”.

But this is the same gov­ern­ment that wants to un­der­mine that con­sti­tu­tion with new leg­is­la­tion and old apartheid laws to re­place crit­i­cal jour­nal­ism with a supine al­ter­na­tive.

Me­dia in­ter­est in the up­grades to the pres­i­dent’s home at Nkandla, for ex­am­ple, prompted the ex­huma­tion of the Na­tional Key Points Act. Then there’s the Se­crecy Bill, which, un­der the guise of pro­tect­ing na­tional se­cu­rity, is aimed at crim­i­nal­is­ing whis­tle-blow­ers and in­ves­tiga­tive re­porters for do­ing their jobs.

The lat­ter seems par­tic­u­larly omi­nous at this time of the Gupta e-mail leaks, es­pe­cially as it would seek to sanc­tion those who brought this state cap­ture mega-dump to our at­ten­tion while al­low­ing busi­ness as usual to con­tinue at Zupta Inc.

Un­til then, they can do lit­tle at the Sax­on­wold She­been but echo of­fi­cial claims that the al­le­ga­tions con­tained in the 100 000-plus e-mails are fake.

It was a “fab­ri­ca­tion” the Gup­tas bought Zuma a lux­ury villa in Dubai, the Pres­i­dency said. “Pres­i­dent Zuma does not own any prop­erty out­side South Africa and has not re­quested any­body to buy prop­erty for him abroad. The pres­i­dent has also not re­ceived or seen the re­ported emails and has no knowl­edge of them.”

This has not de­terred head­linewrit­ers from sug­gest­ing Som­er­set Maugham’s ob­ser­va­tion that the French Riv­iera was a sunny place for shady peo­ple now also ap­plied to the United Arab Emi­rates.

In Dur­ban, where it will be also be sunny this week­end, the vis­i­tors were well aware of the ham-fisted threats to the me­dia and the WAN-IFRA board called on the gov­ern­ment to en­sure “the in­de­pen­dence of jour­nal­ists, no­tably in the face of pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that threat­ens a free press”.

The board drew at­ten­tion to the Cy­ber­crime Bill, de­scrib­ing it as “an as­sault on the right to dig­i­tal pri­vacy” and a threat to the pro­tec­tion of jour­nal­ists’ sources, the Film and Pub­li­ca­tion Board Amend­ment Bill, which broad­ens state power to cen­sor in­ter­net con­tent, and the afore­men­tioned Se­crecy Bill.

Much to our ap­proval, here at the Ma­hogany Ridge, the board also de­nounced the draft Pre­ven­tion and Com­bat­ing of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which would out­law “bring­ing con­tempt and ridicule” onto fig­ures of author­ity.

Quite right. What cheer would life bring if we are not per­mit­ted to in­sult and make puerile fun of Ve­nal, Anal and Rec­tal Gupta?

The scary thing, though, is had Zuma made it to Dur­ban, he would have learned how proper rat­bags deal with a med­dle­some press.

As a news­pa­per ed­i­tor and a po­lit­i­cal writer, Dün­dar had cam­paigned against Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan’s as­sault on democ­racy and a free press.

For his trou­bles, Dün­dar has been threat­ened and ha­rassed by its se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment. He was ar­rested and spent 92 days in prison, even­tu­ally freed fol­low­ing a court rul­ing.

He lives in ex­ile in Ger­many, hav­ing sur­vived an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt, but his wife has had her pass­port seized and is un­able to travel to join him.

“Jour­nal­ists need courage be­cause there is a cloud of fear hang­ing over them,” Dün­dar said in his ac­cep­tance speech. “Fear is ev­ery­where, and it is so pow­er­ful. I come from the big­gest prison for jour­nal­ists in the world: cur­rently, 150 of my col­leagues are be­hind bars in Turkey, and im­pris­on­ing one mem­ber of the press in­tim­i­dates hun­dreds of oth­ers.”

But back to the weather. The storm moved east­wards and the pres­i­dent was able to fly off to Pretoria where he re­ceived let­ters of cre­dence from am­bas­sadors and high com­mis­sion­ers from var­i­ous coun­tries, in­clud­ing the UAE, the Zuma fam­ily’s new home from home.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.