5 January 2012 Leave a comment
The South African news media openly promotes the ANC-regime – (and the Afrikaans news media is the worst culprit, one reader warns) – even as the country’s leaders are curtailing media freedom with a suppressive new secrecy bill, writes Gavin Davis of the DA.
“The ruling party of South Africa has declared nuclear war on the news media’ - writes Gavin Davis:
NASPERS is the worst: one reader also warns that the Afrikaans Naspers news media are so slavish in their devotion to the ruling ANC that they never criticise the fact that so many tens of thousands of their Afrikaans readers are being murdered and left homeless and unemployed due to the ANC’s laws…
“We are witnessing an assault on the free press not seen since the days of BJ Vorster”:
4 January 2012 — “Somebody once cautioned against picking a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel. The ANC either didn’t get the memo or simply ignored the warning. Because the party hasn’t so much picked a fight with the media as declared nuclear war on it.
We are witnessing an assault on the free press not seen since the days of BJ Vorster. You would think that the international outcry precipitated by the secrecy bill would prompt the ANC to at least tone down its rhetoric, if not the substance of its legislative proposals. And yet just a few days after the passage of the Protection of State Information Bill through the National Assembly, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe accused the print media of being “the main opposition party” because its coverage of the ANC was deemed overly negative. He said the same thing during the local election campaign earlier this year.
These are not the unchecked ramblings of a party hatchet man. They are well-aimed jabs at the media’s soft underbelly. And that is the deeply entrenched and irrational fear some journalists have of being labelled anti-ANC and, by extension, ‘counter-revolutionary’ or ‘reactionary’.
The result is a kind of Stockholm Syndrome by which media practitioners paradoxically defend the ANC even as the party goes about destroying their freedom.
It explains why the media is gearing up for a year-long ANC love fest, despite the party’s ongoing assault on the free press.
Last month, the Democratic Alliance (DA) received a letter from the Independent Newspaper Group inviting it to advertise in a forthcoming feature on the ANC centenary celebrations.
- The letter sang the ANC’s praises in no uncertain terms, even promising to “inform our readers of all that the ANC stands for and not only from a political perspective but as a principled way of life.”
This glowing endorsement of the ANC, written on an “Independent” Newspapers letterhead alongside the ANC logo, was itself accompanied by an endorsement letter for the feature authored by ANC Chairperson Baleka Mbete herself.
In response, the Independent Newspaper Group Editorial Director Moegsien Williams denied there was anything unethical going on. “As a rule, there is a ‘Chinese’ wall between the commercial and editorial units of our company primarily to protect our editorial integrity,” he said.
It is too early to tell whether the advertising campaign – which is set to run once a month for the entire year – will influence reporting in the group’s newspapers. And it remains to be seen exactly how the feature will look and whether or not it will be clearly marked ‘advertorial’.
What is apparent is that the newspaper group has engaged in a practice that could lead audiences to doubt its independence.
Perhaps even more troubling was the City Press’s campaign – online and in print: here we find South Africa’s most ardent fan of the ANC.
‘Are you the biggest ANC supporter in the country? We’d like to hear from you. Tell us in an sms or email why you love the party or send a picture that shows your support. Great stories and pics will be published. SMSes charged at R1.50. SMS your name, followed by the keyword ‘ANC’ and why you love the party to nr… or email your story (max 350 words) or pictures and contact details to email@example.com, Closing date: 28 December 2011. “
If the call had been made for readers to send in their honest views of the ANC – whether good or bad – there would be little cause for complaint.
The problem is that the City Press made no attempt to elicit any views on the ANC besides the overwhelmingly positive. It is doubtful that any feature published based on these vox pops alone could be anything approaching ‘balanced’.
When the DA raised questions about this, City Press Editor Ferial Haffajee went on the defensive: “Can the DA really dictate how the media covers the ANC centenary? I’ve had a threat for our call to find the biggest ANC supporter,” she tweeted. “Any media study will find the DA gets way more than its proportionate share of coverage,” she tweeted later.
But this misses the point. It is not the DA’s intention to dictate how the media covers the centenary. And we are not particularly concerned with how much overall coverage the ANC gets in relation to the DA either.
All the DA is asking for is fair and balanced reportage of the ANC centenary celebrations. This will mean recognising both the achievements and shortcomings of the party in an informative way. If newspapers want to advance press freedom, they will do well to avoid falling into the Mantashe trap. Now is not the time for Stockholm Syndrome.” Davis concluded.
Readers’ responses to his article mostly agree: with one writer especially slamming Afrikaans publisher Naspers, noting: ‘there is hardly criticism of ANC for creating conditions which lead to the deaths of so many (Afrikaans) readers due to crime. There were few complaints about effects of AA and racial quotas on the children of Naspers readers… nor about the anti-white nationalism of the ANC…’
” If you wanted to see true Stockholm Syndrome, then you should have been reading Naspers organs (Afrikaans-language Beeld, Rapport, Die Burger) since about 1992, and continuing today. The ANC never did anything wrong…even while President Mbeki was coming down hard, did some of the men and women of Naspers refer to him as “a studious intellectual”. There was hardly criticism of ANC for creating the conditions which led to the deaths of so many Naspers readers due to crime. There were few complaints about the effects of AA and racial quotas on the children of Naspers readers, nor about the anti-white nationalism of the ANC. Only the Black Sash Ladies and SAcan Liberals were worse, but even they are demure and quiet these days after the ANC men they supported and enabled came to power and dealt with them…’
To fill the censorship-gap, many hundreds of Internet sites have sprung up all over South Africa – and also by expats — trying to fill the censorship gap created by the ‘formal’ pro-ANC news media in the country. Amongst the great many are:
Farmitracker – which logs the crimes against SA minorities such as xenophobia and hatespeech and crimes by government officials, and publishes the race of perpetrators and victims from a registered site in Germany; because the SAPS records fail to do so…
Other crime-reporting sites pop up frequently – and continue under different names as soon as its members are arrested inside South Africa, as has happened repeatedly over the past twelve years. Amongs the latest sites are:
Boere Beskermingsforum: Example of anti-Afrikaner propaganda in the South African news media:
Recent SA news media report on arrest of three Boerebeskermingsforum members consistently refer in a very denigrating and racist way to the arrested Afrikaners as ‘whites’ – as indeed the ANC also does consistently: denying Afrikaners even their own ethnic identity and also actively suppressing the Afrikaans language and the job-access rights of Afrikaners:
(with extensive picture archives)