South African media should endeavour to nurse social cohesion, transformation and the end of racism. At least, that’s what Communications Minister Faith Muthambi says.
Muthambi, who has been outspoken in her support for SABC propagandist-in-chief Hlaudi Motsoeneng, believes that the media’s role extends further than merely reporting the news.
“As government, we believe that a diverse and transformed media will ensure a reflection of different views and opinions in languages of citizens’ choices in the body of opinion, thereby promoting social cohesion, nation building, economic growth and inclusion,” she says.
“A knowledgeable and informed society will deepen democracy and active citizenry.”
She’s not entirely wrong - the media has the power and responsibility to shape the minds of all South Africans, and an informed population is key to democracy.
Diversity, too, is important. All South Africans should feel represented in and by the media.
The irony, unfortunately, is that the SABC’s blatant and inconspicuous brand of ‘sunshine journalism’ has blurred lines in conventional media reporting in South Africa.
Journalists are condemned by government for exposing the truth, especially if it is an uncomfortable and inconvenient one for those in power.
Government’s damage control involves using agencies like the SABC, the Gupta-founded The New Age, and to some extent, Independent Media, to push a softer, arguably pro-ANC view of the world.
Muthambi has been at the forefront of this media revolution, defending Motsoeneng at every given opportunity.
Just this morning, the Democratic Alliance once again called for Motsoeneng’s dismissal, listing reasons that include:
- Stating that journalists should obtain licences in order to report news;
- Refusing to broadcast images of violent protests;
- Arguing that the SABC should not report on crime because it encourages further crimes;
- Insisting on the need to broadcast 70% “happy news”. Coincidentally, this aligns precisely with similar statements made by the President at around the same time;
- Refusing to broadcast newspaper headlines and cancelling programmes that discuss newspaper headlines;
- Refusing to air election adverts by the DA;
- Considering requiring SABC employees to wear uniforms;
- Refusing to report on the activities of political parties other than the ANC;
- Instructing the SABC not to run stories that reflect negatively on President Zuma;
- Regularly interfering with editorial decisions within the SABC; and
- Attempting to discipline journalists who comply with the ethics of their profession and refuse to comply with his form of propaganda and censorship
This is not just sunshine journalism. This is outright censorship.
The actions of groups like the SABC 8 are immortalised by journalists and proponents of free speech, but vilified by those who think that all journalism should be a tool used solely for nation-building.
Not so – the media exists for the purpose of holding the mirror up to those in power, reflecting atrocities like corruption and mismanagement whenever they rear their ugly heads.
Make no mistake, the DA is no friend to media, either, and a remarkably efficient PR office and a cleaner image than the ANC does not conceal its own flaws from watchful eyes.
The key word here is accountability. In a nation where it takes decades for justice to be brought down upon those in obstruction of it, the media must strive to report things accurately, fairly and without fear of censorship, regardless of the target.