Introspection just what the media needs

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It is a painful and embarrassing period, but one that demands serious introspection by the Sunday Times and the media industry as a whole.

The media plays a crucial role in our society and, as we have seen over the past few years of the country's struggle against each other, robust and independent journalism can act as an important safeguard for our democratic system. That is why it is important that in the aftermath of the fallout relating to the Sunday Times case, we in the media do all in our power to win back the confidence of you, the reader.

Tomorrow marks the 41st anniversary of Black Wednesday, which is now also known as the national Media Freedom Day.

The day is in commemoration of October 19 1977, when the apartheid state banned The World; the Weekend World as well Pro Veritate, a religious publication run by the late Beyers Naudé.

The closure of the publications was part of a government clampdown on internal resistance to apartheid a month after the death of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko and the killing of hundreds of youths in Soweto and elsewhere a year earlier. It was the banning of The World that led to the establishment of Sowetan in 1981.

This year's commemoration comes at a time when the media industry, especially our sister publication - the Sunday Times - is under a painful public scrutiny.

Following the newspaper's apology for its coverage of stories relating to the killing of suspects by police in KwaZulu-Natal and what it termed the rendition of criminal suspects to Zimbabwe, the practice of journalism has been under the microscope. Some are even wondering aloud if what we write as journalists should be trusted.

One of the steps towards doing so is to tighten our systems to minimise opportunities for our journalists and publications to be manipulated by any of the various factions and groupings within government and business for their selfish gains.

Powerful individuals and organisations will always try to manipulate the media as they see us as a key tool in winning the hearts and minds of the public.

Ours as media practitioners is to avoid that by among, other things, fact checking and double-checking all that sources tell us - especially when they do so anonymously.

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