Floyd’s put-down timeous and right

2011-07-16 10:13

ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete showed leadership this week and deserves accolades for taking the ANC Youth League’s foul-mouthed spokesperson Floyd Shivambu to task for swearing at a journalist.

It had become something of a norm by some ANC leaders and members to think that the media are sitting ducks for their potshots. The ANC’s campaign for a state-led Media ­Appeals Tribunal added to the growth of this ­tendency.

Without prejudging the case, it is worth remembering that Shivambu still faces an Equality Court case where he is alleged to have called Independent Newspapers’ journalist Carien du Plessis a “white bitch”. Shivambu has denied the charge.

While journalists are far from perfect, so are politicians, as are all human beings. In a state where the Constitution guarantees freedom of ­expression, it is expected that there will be tensions between the two parties from time to time.

It is necessary that each party understands that there will be rules of engagement and that they do not include using foul language against the other.

Shivambu’s verbal abuse does not on it own constitute a threat to media freedom – but left unchallenged and uncorrected, it sows the seeds for the future shooting of the messenger. That’s why Mbete’s intervention was necessary and timely.

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