The South African journalism, as others in Africa and in other neighbouring continents of the world, is constantly threatened by the lack of independence between politicians and journalists, which is an essential requirement for truthful information and reporting.
Journalism and politics, share a mutual relationship, respectively journalism and politics have vital roles and relevance, with regards to the Media situation in South Africa. Politicians needed the media, for leading the population in so critical and historical moments. In return, journalists, and other forms of media, report on these historical events.
In spite of the mutual dependence, the main problems of journalism, is caused by its dependence on politics. This dependence arise confusion between the informative role of the media and propaganda. Government are the main contributing sponsors for most broadcasting services; such as television, newspapers and radio. Their governments’ contribution and majority ownership of these broadcasting services, gives them authority and total control of any publication or any material, before the material can be broadcasted or made public.
At times the media itself is an advocate for propaganda, in some cases they become government puppets. In most publications objectivity fails to coexist in a journalistic society, where independence of the media has strings attached to their morals and ethics. One of the causes of this situation, wherever, can be that some journalists carry out with the function of being opinion leaders.
The truth of the matter is that, the media is more powerful than it seems. Most ideologies implemented into society by the media, is visible in the way we think, speak, behave and socialize. To a certain large extent the media has shaped our frame of reference. With this in mind, we can clearly see that journalists play a vital role in shaping society’s moral fibre.
From day one the whole Journalism-Politician relationship thing was in tatters, worst of all the proposed Controversial Information Bill may deteriorate the relationship even further. In recent reports the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association deemed the Bill “beyond absurd” and “unearthed” set of rules- which govern who journalist spoke to in parliament. The Times reported that Independent Newspaper journalist Deon De Lang’s parliamentary accreditation might be suspended because he wrote a story relating to the Protection of Information Bill, based on an interview with an unnamed ANC parliamentary official.
According to the report, secretary to Parliament Zingile Dingani wrote to the Independent Group editors asking why he should not withdraw De Lange's accreditation. So what does this mean for us journalist? This means that if there is a power struggle within a particular party we can not report on the matter and that parliamentary journalist will not be able to gain access to annual reports from departments and state entities. If the Bill is passed this will empower government to classify state information and jail journalist who revealed such inforMation. Disclosing “classified information” deemed hurtful to national interests would carry prison terms of three to 25 years, without the option of a fine. Critics of the Bill have deemed it unconstitutional because it fails to include a public interest clause. But this is not the main hurdle we journalist are faced with- the main issue here is the lack of clarity of its effects. Even Prithiraj Dullay, of the Right2Know campaign, said it was understandable for there to be secrecy on issues dealing with state security.
So as Journalist should we be checking our weather charts; in preparation for the Information Bill’s reign? Or will our resilience against the Bill shield us from the storm.
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