Main­stream me­dia’s aim at Malema ‘un­demo­cratic’


ABIE Zaidan­nas from In­done­sia, in his prism on what the role of the me­dia is in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety, as­serts: “Me­dia plays im­por­tant roles in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety and could not be sep­a­rated from the democ­racy it­self.

“Ideally, the me­dia is a tool to ed­u­cate the vot­ers, giv­ing them facts, news and bal­anced opin­ions about how the gov­ern­ment is run and man­aged. It is vi­tal to have well-in­formed vot­ers in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety to en­sure ac­count­able and re­spon­si­ble gov­ern­ment. A wellinformed so­ci­ety should be able to make ra­tio­nal choices, mak­ing sure the gov­ern­ment works as the peo­ple want.

“Me­dia also act as the watch­dog for the gov­ern­ment in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety by fa­cil­i­tat­ing the peo­ple to ar­tic­u­late their views, de­mands and as­pi­ra­tions. The me­dia usu­ally is a pow­er­ful way to make sure the de­ci­sion-mak­ers work in line with the vot­ers’ in­ter­ests, keep­ing the politi­cians and pub­lic of­fi­cials in check.”

While Zaidan­nas and oth­ers evoke a cel­e­bra­tion of what me­dia in democ­racy would mean, un­for­tu­nately me­dia as we ex­pe­ri­ence it falls short.

In a twist, main­stream me­dia has in this sea­son taken its aim at Julius Malema, leader of the EFF. In what is symp­to­matic and a se­quence to its tar­get­ing former pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, it has locked its fo­cus on Malema, the one who worked with them to vil­ify Zuma. Let me make it clear: it is not in our in­ter­est or aim to de­fend the EFF or its leader, which is and who is ca­pa­ble of de­fend­ing it­self. We merely cite Malema as an ex­am­ple of how main­stream me­dia re­veals its hypocrisy.

Our point is, in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety the right to free­dom of speech, ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and a pub­lic opin­ion de­fines the premise for the rel­e­vance of a me­dia in­dus­try. It is a right we fought for since our che­quered and known his­tory con­firms such a right was non-ex­is­tent as it was di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to the agenda of apartheid. With the ad­vent of a demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion, it be­came es­sen­tial to de­fine this right as a non-ne­go­tiable for a South African cit­i­zenry.

The me­dia is su­per-sen­si­tive to any idea of ex­ter­nal reg­u­la­tion. It has vo­cif­er­ously cam­paigned and ral­lied ex­ter­nal part­ners to plead its case that its right to prac­tise free­dom of speech as the car­rier of in­for­ma­tion would be en­croached if it is ex­ter­nally reg­u­lated.

To this end, de­spite its po­lit­i­cal ger­ry­man­der­ing and em­bed­ded­ness, it has in­sisted on be­ing an in­dus­try that self-reg­u­lates.

Yet we will re­call a time not so long ago when the same me­dia ran to their coun­ter­parts in Europe to sup­port them, since it was claimed the ANC wanted to clamp down on press free­dom.

There is no dif­fer­ence in what the me­dia did, jux­ta­posed to what AfriFo­rum did on the sub­ject of ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion, when it this year ag­gres­sively so­licited sup­port from like-think­ing racist sup­port­ers in the US.

Ramalaine is po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and chair­per­son of TMoSA, the Think­ing Masses of South Africa Foun­da­tion.

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