Respect media independence

It is public knowledge that the media industry worldwide is a subject of criticism and condemnation and is often labelled biased, especially when it is critical. When it exposes corruption, maladministration, poor service delivery and misconduct of public office bearers and politicians, it is criticised.

It is public knowledge that the media industry worldwide is a subject of criticism and condemnation and is often labelled biased, especially when it is critical. When it exposes corruption, maladministration, poor service delivery and misconduct of public office bearers and politicians, it is criticised.

ANC president Jacob Zuma is a vocal critic of the media. He is known for publicly lashing out at the media and also for his multi-million rand defamation and crimen injuria lawsuits. Zuma's attacks succinctly reveal his intention to alter the way the industry operates and to strip it of its independence.

Fortunately, the constitution guarantees media freedom. Detractors should learn to appreciate and acknowledge that the established media will continue to do a better job of covering politics and policy. It is imperative that elected leaders embrace media criticism. Blaming it reinforces tendencies of conspiratorial thinking. It blots out creative thinking about how to use the media for nation building.

I am not suggesting that top politicians and even ordinary citizens should not raise concerns about the media. They have every right to condemn bad journalism by following the appropriate channels. The office of the Press Ombudsman is charged with this responsibility to provide a quick and inexpensive resolution for people who feel they have been wronged.

But the problem lies with politicians like Zuma, who continuously and unduly attack the media. These are very loud generalisations. As Sanef correctly pointed out, Zuma's attacks reveal a hostile state of mind towards the media. His claim that the media is not diverse is a mistaken and gross misrepresentation of the industry. The fact is that the industry is heterogeneous in both editorial terms and otherwise.

When politicians and government complain about the nature of media coverage, they are actually demanding that the industry abandons an independent stance and champion their cause by reporting what they want reported.

This is, in effect, what people from the left and right constantly do. They attack the media hoping that it will curve in their direction, and then blame the media if their programme fails.

Unfortunately, the media cannot be lobbied nor forced to follow certain defined political and ideological perspectives other than those of a public interest nature.

Misa-SA encourages our leaders to acknowledged that the role of the media is to be critical of government and politicians and also to safeguard our maturing democracy. Above all, its duty is to inform the public about what happens around them. Misa-SA urges our leaders to refrain from brutally attacking the media and from trying to dictate the manner in which the media ought to operate. Such undue attacks are nothing but efforts to silence a critical media and to interfere with its freedom and independence.

Dumisani Nyalunga, media and advocacy officer: Misa-SA

Johannesburg

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