Journalists know journalism matters
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 was put out on Twitter. It was horrifying.
And, now, she who works to protect journalists needs protection.
That protection comes from journalists dragging the dark- ness 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 playthegame. org.
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 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 cheat, steal and lie. Through it all, people such as Quintal and Mumo keep going because they know one thing: journalism matters.