The following article was published online by News Time:
During the dark days of apartheid, liberation movements treated the media with great suspicion. The dominant view was that the media was promoting the apartheid government’s propaganda and serving the interest of its white owners.
It is interesting to note that seventeen years into our democracy, the former liberation movements still have the same attitude they had in the past against the media. These political organisations, including the ruling party, still distrust the media.
The more things change the more they remain the same. The relationship betweewn the ruling ANC and media was better during the reign of the living legend Nelson Mandela. The relations between the two started deteriorating during Thabo Mbeki’s administration and have become worse during Jacob Zuma’s tenure.
Mandela held the view that “freedom of the media and the press is among the oldest and most valued freedoms for which people the world over have fought. The ANC has extended its solidarity and shall continue to support journalists, editors, writers and other media people who face persecution because they seek to exercise this right.
“Those of us who experienced the oppressive measures that the apartheid government took against the media were relieved that we are, at last, heading towards a dispensation that protects citizens’ right to information.”
That said, Mbeki didn’t have good relations with the media. The relationship between his administration and media was rather hostile. At one point, the then head in the Presidency Essop Pahad threatened to withhold advertisement from the media that is critical of government. Sounds familiar?
The current president Zuma also doesn’t enjoy good relations with the Fourth Estate. It is my considered view that JZ hate the media with a passion. However, if true, he shouldn’t allow his gripe against the media to compromise the media freedom the ANC has fought for.
Since he took over, the ruling party has – and still is – trying every trick in the book to suppress the media. The ANC has proposed two anti-media legislations in the form of the Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) and Protection of Information bill.
MAT would have empowered the ANC led government to regulate the print and electronic media and the Protection of Information bill would give government excessively broad powers to classify information in the “national interest”. The ruling party has since relaxed its stance on MAT but it is still pursuing the secrecy bill.
According to the veteran journalist and Press Council chairman Raymond Louw, the Protection of Information bill had provoked more public debate than any other legislation drafted in the post-apartheid era.
Though not perfect, the media is one of the pillars and cornerstones of our democracy. It plays a critical and pivotal role in enhancing our democracy. And as such, we cannot afford to have a suppressed and oppressed media.
If it was not for our vigilant media, many corrupt cases especially in government would have been swept under the carpet. That means billions of rands of the taxpayer’s money would have not been used for their intended purpose.
There is an argument that the media is only focusing on corruption in government because it is led by blacks. On the other hand, it put a blind eye on the corruption in the private sector because it is mostly whites who do corruption there.
To a certain degree, I agree with the above argument. The media has a tendency of portraying blacks in a negative light. For instance, the media mostly uses the faces of HIV positive black kids for their AIDS related stories– they hardly use non-black children who live with the virus. This gives an impression that this challenge affects the black nation only, when it is not the case.
The ruling party view the media as an enemy and opposition, not a stakeholder.The ANC also feels that the Fourth Estate is not properly communicating its messages. Hence government has decided to start its own newspaper which will communicate its message properly.
There is nothing that suggests the relationship between the ANC led government and the Fourth Estate will improve. The ruling party continues to see the media as a tool and agent of white capitalists who use the media to push their own agenda. And the media is steadfast and won’t let any political party take away media freedom our struggle heroes fought and died for.
The love hate relationship between political organisations and media is normal and expected. However, it becomes a concern when the relations become hostile, as in our case. For the sake of our democracy, the ANC and media need to find each other and manage their relations.
Source: News Time