The freedom and independence of the press is a powerful and needed thing in any country.
Background to this post
I’m digressing a little from my usual ramblings and rantings on my faith and spirituality to talk about the freedom of speech, or more specifically the freedom of the press. (Not that this isn’t a spiritual topic either, but that could be for another post.)
This is in conjunction with bloggers and journalists all over South Africa who are protesting and talking about tactics employed by the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) against the media.
Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of ANC Youth League Spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the secretary-general of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money-laundering practices of Dumisane Lubisi, a journalist at City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.
In response, Hlongwane launched a blog protest called #SpeakZA which has also developed into a conversation at Twitter.
The conversation at Twitter is fascinating and I could probably hang out there all day and watch the different opinions come in.
So here’s what I think
Firstly, I don’t think this is an issue so much with the ANCYL wanting to expose a journalist as much as the reason why it is wanting to do that. I mean, is it really that concerned about how a journalist is living and how they’re paying their taxes? Two wrongs don’t make a right. If Julius Malema (pictured to the right, courtesy of ANCYouthleague.org), its president, has been getting business in shady ways that isn’t proved to be OK because (or ‘if’, rather) the journalist who helped uncover that is avoiding paying his taxes.
Besides, if you want to be in a leadership position you ought to realise that part of the job is to be scrutinised by the media. Get over it. It comes with the territory.
What the ANCYL is basically saying is, “Keep quiet about us or we will talk about you as well.” Last time I checked, that’s a type of blackmail. Sure, no money is being exchanged (we would hope) but this is still a sort of blackmail.
The ANCYL is trying to teach the media a lesson, and from this perspective it looks like it’s trying to show the media who’s boss rather than truly have the interests of the country at heart. It surely doesn’t have my interests at heart, and the thousands of others talking at the #SpeakZA Twitter feed and the various blogs associated with it.
From an entirely different perspective, though, I feel a great deal of the South African media is too sensationalist. We need more hard core investigative journalism. This whole saga may produce a positive effect on the media where it realises that it needs to publish facts not just speculation, and it needs to expose rather than sensationalise. It also needs to praise, something we seldom see. After all, bad news sells better, doesn’t it?
Now here is another perspective I’ve picked up at #SpeakZA, one which interests me a great deal. Lisolam Melody talks about how she feels that the South African media pushes a white/western agenda, and says things like “The SA press’s representation of Africans is clearly rooted in the ‘Dark Continent’ metaphor and it unabashedly profits from racist stereotypes.”
Interesting perspective. I would encourage anyone to visit that post and read it. I’m not sure if I agree wholeheartedly, but I’ve also become aware of my own Western paradigms in the last few years and how Western I actually am (and how Western doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘right’).
Something of my awakening to my own paradigms I wrote in an article published by The Times in October last year, where I argue (and still do) that many of the Western mindsets exist in ways we don’t see in the very people who argue for African ways rather than Western ways.
For instance, I would argue that Julius Malema’s recent exorbitantly priced birthday party is a thoroughly anti-African and pro-Western way of doing things. The African Way is, traditionally, more community focused. Is Malema more community focused? Or is he out to build himself a career, and pandering to his current audience to get him there?
Corruption isn’t an African tradition. Of course, corruption will exist anywhere where people are in some sort of power. It’s a thoroughly human problem, not a government issue. But individualism is a Western idea, and as far as I’m concerned many of our African leaders promote individualism through their lifestyle and through an attitude that says, “I’m here to get what I can get.”
Here’s the blogroll so far. I’ll try and keep it up to date!
Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational fiction, and on faith. Ryan is also part of the New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) translocal team.