Daily Maverick’s agenda

By Opinion Time of article published Nov 19, 2020

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By Hadebe Hadebe

Often it is said one should not open wounds that have healed. But today it is necessary to do the opposite as a reminder that uncalculated actions will always boomerang and take you out.

Seeing the noise at the SABC, one is tempted to argue that journalists are probably their own worst enemies in South Africa.

South African media is unable to separate itself from what it should do (providing information) and what it should not be doing (acting as both referee and ethics officer in a game they partake in).

The purpose of journalism is to provide information in order to assist people to make informed decisions, not to act like tinpot dictators.

At the height of the Gupta phenomenon in South Africa, journalists, and many others, acted very strangely.

In fact, they were prepared to trample on the principles that they should have protected with their lives. Those include freedom of speech, tolerance, journalistic independence, etc.

Unfortunately, they chose the opposite in the name of political expedience, and also displayed a strong urge to be seen and recognised by whomever.

The saga between ANN7/New Age and members of the journalism profession will always be a reminder of how things always come back to haunt the instigator. In one presser, the then finance minister, Pravin

Gordhan, mocked ANN7 journalists, to the amusement of their colleagues who saw no need to defend fellow journalists. Those were good times.

A few years later, the EFF explicitly stated that they did not welcome eNCA journalists at their events. There was an outcry. The eNCA journalists were at the forefront of discrediting ANN7/New Age journalists – they were now feeling the sting of a bee. For the first time, they understood how it felt to be declared an outcast.

The eNCA also openly punted for Cyril Ramaphosa before the elections as a way of taking sides in rampant ANC factionalism. Political bias will always be there, and the ANN7/New Age duo also displayed similar bias by siding with Jacob Zuma.

However, the misinformation campaign from the South African media remains the greatest concern about the future of journalism going forward.

The actions of the South African media were unprecedented, but this has become the norm rather than an exception.

Sekunjalo Media is a subject of ridicule from the likes of the Daily Maverick, who aren’t even scared to fabricate stories about its owner, Iqbal Survé, and its journalists.

This practice is so widespread that when The Star editor Sifiso G Mahlangu broke the story of the planned arrest of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, he was labelled as a “Gupta mole”. Two weeks later, a warrant to arrest him was indeed issued – and guess who announced the story? Daily Maverick’s Pieter-Louis Myburgh, one of the key people who leads in the toxic polarisation of some journalists.

Daily Maverick and eNCA have and continue to be the worst thing to emerge in the public media space since the Nats’ mouthpiece, The Citizen newspaper, in 1976.

Their unusual pose in media spaces later extended to the SABC, which is now a respected member of Intolerant Journos Incorporated.

Today, the journalists who acted as adjudicators in a game that was designed to sink ANN7/New Age journalists are now in an unenviable position: the SABC journalists face a bleak future and could soon be retrenched. They are likely to experience joblessness like their former ANN7/ New Age colleagues whom they bulldozed out of public spaces.

When ANN7/ New Age closed down after protracted media campaigning, professionals were left without jobs, and many lost their belongings and reputations. Some people who were employed by ANN7/ New Age beg for gigs and small loans in order just to make ends meet.

The bullish journos who preside over the destruction and demolition of fellow professionals aren’t bothered.

Clearly, South Africans have not learned from the likes of the US, where media is divided between Republicans and Democrats, but no one sees a need to shut down Fox News or CNN.

There is a strong belief in the plurality of voices in the media space. Some top honchos in South Africa would prefer singularity, propaganda-like journalism.

“Fake news” and intolerance characterises certain South African journalists. For example, in an act of extremism, Stephen Grootes fails to respect labour rights as conferred by the constitution in a quest to portray black workers as unreasonable vultures. For him, public sector unions cannot exercise their rights, which are clearly protected by the country’s laws.

In truth, clandestine formations under pseudo-journalism such as Scorpio and AmaBhungane behave worse than the apartheid propaganda machine. They create discourses and narratives that aren’t only corrupt, but which are also Verwoerdian.

Journalists forget that one day South Africa will have an equally intolerant government. The question is, what will they say about media freedom and freedom of speech when that day of reckoning arrives?

* Hadebe is an independent commentator on socio-economics, politics and global matters.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Star

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