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Anyone in the media will tell you that the first thing they teach you is that for a democratic environment to function properly, there is a need for a set of freedoms. One of these freedoms, which is probably the most important of them all, is the freedom of expression.
The understanding is that the freer we are, the more informed our decisions will be on how to better our societies.
The origins of democracy can be traced back to sixth century (BC) classical Athens when every member of that society had a right to say what they thought about the politics of the time.
Although we have copied this model to a point, it is essential to follow the rules and let an electorate have the freedom of expression they deserve.
This point is inspired by the disturbing news that one of SABC2’s mainstay shows, The Big Debate, was canned under what remain unclear circumstances.
Through a statement from the SABC’s Kaizer Kganyago published in the Mail & Guardian, the show was “incorrectly com- missioned by SABC2 and in so doing, the editorial oversight, which is the responsibility of the news, was compromised”.
What does this mean?
How does a show get “incorrectly commissioned?” Since The Big Debate is not a new show, what was in the show’s content that caused the SABC such concern?
For those who have never watched the show, the set is like a miniature Colosseum where members of the public sit and deliberate a topic. There are usually professionals of a particular trade which is gen- erally related to the topic, who come in to the studio to give expert advice on the subject at hand.
Topics that have been covered in the past range from violence against women to corrupt police officials.
At the direction of the host, Siki Mgabadeli (pictured), the guest and professionals then debate their line of thinking.
Let’s face it, there is no other show like this on the entire DStv bouquet. Most of the local TV landscape is filled with fluff that really does not stimulate the mind.
The Big Debate deals with things that affect you and me, today. If The Star publishes a story about e-tolls, you can be guaranteed that this show will pick it up and call in all parties concerned and deliberate the issue. This is a civil and mature way of ironing out problems and legally South Africans have the freedom to express themselves.
It is sad that now the big debate is whether to have this show back on our screens. As a people we have come too far to even talk about censorship today. The one thing that comes to mind when the powers that be gag a medium is that they have something to hide.
And if they have something to hide then the aforementioned harmonious democratic atmosphere is disrupted. The government is not a group of elected people who run the country, the government is the people and for any fair political system to work, there have to be platforms for them to air their views.
It is disgusting that we are even talking about this, but here’s hoping the marches of protest that are being held at the SABC’s Auckland Park offices get this silly move reversed.