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THEMBA SEPOTOKELE | Beware as politicians come out of their slumberland

The media must be vigilant in reporting ‘breaking news’

SA parliament
SA parliament
Image: Anton Scholtz

Indeed, the silly season is upon us and politicians will go the extra mile to show they care, and that whatever they do, in full glare of cameras, is in the interest of our people

From kissing babies to handing over sanitary pads and a bag of maize meal, potatoes and tomatoes to the poor, vulnerable and underprivileged including hosting Christmas Party lunches and even cooking for pensioners and the infirmed. 

Not only that, they invite the media so that the cameras are there to capture the moment and they will unashamedly pose for pictures grinning from ear to ear with fake smiles as they present the gifts that they mostly got for free from sponsors, presenting them as a good gesture from the bottom of their hearts. 

Therefore, this silly season calls for the media in general, and journalists in particular, to be vigilant and circumspect in reporting breaking news, some of which could have possibly been manufactured as a smear campaign against their opponents and rivals. 

Its a known fact that the relationship between journalists and their sources is like a dance as respected and renowned sociologist Walter Lippman once observed. Its the “I need you, you need me type of relationship. But this season, sources will be freely available to the media, pushing and peddling their narrative. 

Worse, some camouflage and cower as faceless, confidential or unnamed sources will be too cosy with journalists, feeding them stories and mostly poison just to achieve their nefarious agendas.

You must know its the silly season when a case of rape is laid post-facto, and the alleged victim suddenly withdraws it. You must know weve entered a silly season when a senior politician opens a tap with hordes of journalists converging to cover the non-event masquerading as newsworthy, with applause from local politicians. What a shame! 

You must know it is the silly season when a politician who went underground during their term of office emerges from a four-year slumber, doing interviews with the media, including the same community media they treated as lepers during their halcyon days.

You will see how some will only realise that although most of us embraced social media more than decade ago, some politicians will suddenly discovery that theres Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, only just because the silly season is upon us.

With insurmountable pressure from their political principals who will be breathing fire on their necks, some spokespersons, who otherwise are allergic to the media, will all of a sudden become overnight media darlings.

Its indeed that silly season when politicians share their mobile numbers with journalists so that they are seen to be receptive to the Fourth Estate.

. It is important for the media to revisit the Press Council of SA to see what the code of conduct and ethics governing the media says. 

The 2024 elections will undoubtedly be the hottest contested elections since the dawn of democracy almost three decades ago and thus, calls for vigilance. It calls for journalists, photographers, news editors, sub-editors, editors, producers and executive producers including news anchors not to allow themselves to be used as useful idiots, more so in the era of fake news, disinformation and misinformation, worse with artificial intelligence posing a serious danger to the media ecosystem.

Trust, credibility, impartiality, honesty and to some extent truthfulness are sacrosanct to the survival of the media and should always be on the mind of media practitioners. 

Anyway, it’s a global disease, politicians like the click of the camera, especially during the silly season. 

  • Sepotokele is a journalist, communication strategist, media trainer and journalism lecturer

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