Media have rights - and responsibilities
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?
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.