Me­dia have rights - and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties

Sunday World - - Opinion - THEMBA SE­PO­TOKELE Se­po­tokele is a for­mer jour­nal­ist­turned-govern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tor and a me­dia trainer. He writes in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

IN 1994, Nel­son Man­dela told the In­ter­na­tional Press In­sti­tute World Congress: “A crit­i­cal, in­de­pen­dent and in­ves­tiga­tive press is the lifeblood of any democ­racy. ”

Fast-for­ward twenty years, and the beauty about liv­ing in a post-apartheid South Africa is that me­dia free­dom is en­shrined in our con­sti­tu­tion and the me­dia are free.

Yes, I hear mur­murs about the Pro­tec­tion of State In­for­ma­tion Bill, sar­cas­ti­cally re­ferred to in me­dia cir­cles as the “se­crecy bill ”.

The fact that the me­dia ve­he­mently op­posed cer­tain sec­tions of the bill and that it had to go to and fro, with the me­dia mak­ing the loud­est noise, shows that this is democ­racy in ac­tion.

Had it been some­where else on the con­ti­nent, such a bill would have been signed into law re­gard­less.

When I say I have a good story to tell and that the me­dia are free, some cyn­ics im­me­di­ately point at the “se­crecy bill ” and the ar­rest of one Mzilikazi wa Afrika some years ago in full view of his col­leagues.

I dare to ask, how many char­la­tans in the me­dia would have ac­tu­ally been ar­rested for ma­li­cious, reck­less and cow­boy reporting?

How many have thrown out the ba­sic tenets of jour­nal­ism in the name of a “scoop ”, thus com­pro­mis­ing jour­nal­is­tic ethics?

Who re­mem­bers the “brown en­ve­lope” scan­dal in Cape Town?

I bet you that this is one sub­ject that my erst­while col­leagues would want to bury as soon as pos­si­ble, as many buried their heads when that

How many char­la­tans have ac­tu­ally been ar­rested for ma­li­cious, reck­less and cow­boy reporting?

scan­dal broke.

When jour­nal­ists tar­nish and soil the no­ble pro­fes­sion, most of their peers will never re­buke them pub­licly, un­less it ’ s a new me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion that ei­ther has ties to the gov­ern­ing party or to the govern­ment.

When The New Age was con­ceived, it was riled and ridiculed for hav­ing re­la­tions with Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

So was the TV chan­nel ANN7, which com­mit­ted a com­edy of er­rors when it launched.

Just to jux­ta­pose, when The Week­ender died and was sub­se­quently buried, there were sym­pa­thetic voices in the me­dia in­dus­try be­cause the news­pa­per was seen as one of their own.

It has been in­ter­est­ing to live in a South Africa that does not pros­e­cute or per­se­cute jour­nal­ists.

Coun­tries such as Egypt, Rwanda, Zim­babwe, China, Venezuela and Mex­ico are among the worst when it comes to me­dia free­dom.

The me­dia should guard their free­dom with their lives and re­duce un­nec­es­sary and un­war­ranted at­tacks that the me­dia in­vite by tram­pling on the rights of oth­ers in the guise of me­dia free­dom or in the pub­lic in­ter­est, which is not al­ways in the in­ter­est of the pub­lic.

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