Jour­nal­ism is un­der at­tack from those threat­ened by it

Business Day - - SPORTS DAY -

From Trump to Tan­za­nia, jour­nal­ism is un­der at­tack. On the same day, in the US and in Africa, jour­nal­ists were be­rated, ac­cused and, in the case of SA’s An­gela Quin­tal, ab­ducted and taken in for ques­tion­ing by Tan­za­nian au­thor­i­ties.

Quin­tal and Muthoki Mumo from the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists were re­leased on Thurs­day af­ter the SA high com­mis­sioner in Dar es Salaam had ne­go­ti­ated their re­lease, but their pass­ports were con­fis­cated. They had been ask­ing ques­tions about a miss­ing jour­nal­ist.

The Tan­za­nian au­thor­i­ties did not take kindly to that. Quin­tal’s phone was hacked. A false mes­sage put out on Twit­ter. It was hor­ri­fy­ing.

I worked with Quin­tal at In­de­pen­dent News­pa­pers.

She would send through the odd re­quest for sto­ries that made sense, an un­usual thing from ed­i­tors. And, now, she who works to pro­tect jour­nal­ists needs pro­tec­tion.

That pro­tec­tion comes from jour­nal­ists drag­ging the dark­ness into the light, check­ing, ask­ing and telling. That pro­tec­tion is nec­es­sary to keep lead­ers and the coun­try on as even a keel as it can be.

Sports jour­nal­ists don’t get ab­ducted, locked up and in­ter­ro­gated as much as our po­lit­i­cal and news col­leagues. Well, not in SA. It doesn’t take much of a search to find sto­ries of sports jour­nal­ists who have been as­saulted and killed around the world. Here are a few from

In 2002, “Monk­agedi Gaotl­hobogwe, sports re­porter at Botswana Gazette, was as­saulted at the news­pa­per’s of­fices by prom­i­nent Botswana na­tional foot­ball team player Se­abo Ga­banakgosi. The foot­ball player was un­happy about how the re­porter had de­scribed him in ar­ti­cles in the news­pa­per.”

In 2007, “Julu John­son, a sports ed­i­tor for the Liberian news­pa­per News, was phys­i­cally at­tacked by the deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Liberia Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (LFA), Mr Napoleon Jae­ploe, when he went to cover LFA’s re­cent ex­tra­or­di­nary congress. The at­tack took place in full pub­lic view of all the del­e­gates.”

In 2006, “Stipe Pudja of the Croa­t­ian news­pa­per, Vercernji List, re­ceived death threats on SMS af­ter re­port­ing on a World Cup tick­et­ing fraud af­fair where Croa­t­ians liv­ing in Ger­many had been cheated. The mes­sages threat­en­ing the jour­nal­ist and his fam­ily came from a mo­bile phone be­long­ing to a man who al­legedly was be­hind the scam.”

At home, the most fa­mous in­ci­dent was in 1992. Stan­ley “Screamer” Tsha­bal­ala was fired af­ter he slapped vet­eran jour­nal­ist Sy Ler­man.

The ero­sion of jour­nal­ism starts in small ways. It be­gins with an ed­i­tor be­ing told by a man from up­stairs to put a cer­tain story on the back page be­cause of a fi­nan­cial ar­range­ment with a com­pany or sports or­gan­i­sa­tion. It hap­pened in 2018 at one group in SA paid ad­ver­tis­ing pos­ing as jour­nal­ism. Jour­nal­ism suf­fers when jour­nal­ists back down to of­fi­cials lest they get shut out of the in­ner cir­cle.

The wear­ing down of jour­nal­ism comes when ad­min­is­tra­tors em­ploy spin­ners to push an an­gle to writ­ers, skew­ing the story to dis­tract and fob off blame amid re­ports about greedy peo­ple who are about to get caught.

I was asked to write such a piece in 2017. I said no. I needed to see a pa­per trail, doc­u­ments, e-mails, not spec­u­la­tion and re­hashes of old sto­ries. It wasn’t forth­com­ing, so, no story.

Jour­nal­ism is un­der threat in­ter­nally when ed­i­tors are told by bosses with lit­tle in­sight into the dig­i­tal age to push for clicks.

Sipho Kings of the Mail & Guardian put it bet­ter than I could when he tweeted on Wed­nes­day: “Can we all please stop say­ing that jour­nal­ism’s fu­ture is #dig­i­tal? Jour­nal­ism is about in­ves­ti­gat­ing our world and telling its sto­ries. All plat­forms, from mar­ble to print to screens are there to be used. It’s a silly state­ment and has led to much bad de­ci­sion mak­ing.”

There are those who want to stop the in­ves­ti­gat­ing and the sto­ry­telling. There are threats, ob­struc­tions and an au­di­ence that can twist and turn with the pre­vail­ing wind, but that is al­ways hun­gry for in­for­ma­tion.

Jour­nal­ism is un­der at­tack from those most threat­ened by it, by those who are cheat­ing and steal­ing and ly­ing. Through it all, peo­ple such as Quin­tal and Mumo keep on keep­ing on be­cause they know one thing: jour­nal­ism mat­ters.


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