During the past couple of months, the debate regarding the Protection of State Information Bill (POI) has taken the country by storm with the media at the forefront.
Anyone who reads online news such as News 24 should know that the commentary at the bottom is about as worthless as the municipal system in this country. Yes, so you get to have your say and comment on what’s news. Then what?
My point is actually focussed on the effect the media has on the broad spectrum of people. This pertains to what is said in the media, and the way any given story is written. When a story surfaces on an individual, most people usually revert to “trial by opinion”, which may have a devastating effect on the truth and presumed innocence.
At this point, I have to note that the motivation behind the passing of legislation that even remotely creates the inuendo of sensorship, should be avvoided 99.99% of the time.
However, the world has moved towards an era where public opinion is placed at the forefront of accountability, and just some of the examples are the recession; who is to blame for the futures market collapsing?
The world recession was an eventuality that was always looming, however deregulation in the world financial sector has made it very difficult to blame specific people, even though everyone is looking for a scapegoat…
The new Companies Act even places accountability on the workings of directors, giving them the same measure of responsibility accounted to professionals like doctors and attorneys.
My question then is; why should the media be any different, given the power it wields in public opinion?
Obviously the effect bad publicity has on finding the truth, has a far reaching, possibly terminal effect on the guy, appearing on a picture where he is helped into a police van, when the wrong sound snippet about child molestors are played in the background! Granted, this scenario relies on a technical problem, but so does the law, or public opinion.
If we need to be protected against political propaganda and sensorship by means of the Constitution, then wouldn't it make sense too protect us against sensationalism and exploitation by media houses, with a simple act?
I fully agree that the media should not be silenced, and I also agree that the entire spirit of the POI bill is suspect, and appears to be that of a state attempting to grant shadowy powers to itself, in an effort to avert bad publicity....or worse...create it.
Some people will believe anything they read, and in most cases act as judge, jury and executioner when the story on someone is juicy enough.
Maybe these people love to see others burn when their own mundane existence drives them up the walls…maybe they're just being human? Judges and Magistrates are human. The notion that they are immune to the media is an absolute fallacy, as cases that rest on a 50/50 scale at the end of the trial, normally get tipped to the one side due to public opinion.
The thing is though, we’ve already decided that such a tribunal will not be able to function properly, due to government interference, and that journalists will be at the mercy of unyielding individuals out to cap the mouthpiece of the people.
Seen in that instance, what then is your opinion on our courts….?
Or even other tribunals like the Competition Commission, the National Credit Regulator, and so forth? Are they also compounded by de facto corrupt individuals that only promote the government’s agenda, by any means possible?
Silly then, isn’t it? How the media has already drawn the conclusion on our behalf that the tribunal itself is the product of the devil…
Remember one thing, autocratic states were all ruled by propaganda, and using the media is paramount to achieving this goal.
The media needs to remain free, but measures might have to be taken to get them to be fair in all instances.
Maybe we are opening Pandora’s Box by allowing just a little, in the form of a tribunal, but maybe we also witness the dawn of responsible journalism in the time to come.