Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? "Who watches the watchmen?
For the best of time the judiciary and media have unsuccessfully cast itself as being above the social forces which act on us commoners, the hoi polloi. This line of argument has been used to further argue that the fourth estate is and shall remain "independent and impartial" in carry out its work.
Any scientific study of any society will reveal that this argument is at best deceitful. The accusations of improper conduct brought against Cape Judge President Hlophe, the on-going suggestions of a whites only boys club fighting to discredit Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and recent the accusations and counter accusations of racism in the in City Press newsroom around the person of Fereal Hafajee would suggest differently.
Though some may argue to the contrary, the objective truth is that editors and judges are no different from me and you. Court rooms and news rooms are no different from mines and factories. This is because they are staffed by the very same men and women who carry with them their own social and political prejudices brought on by years of conscious and unconscious social condition. These "independent institutions" are manned by the very men and women who walk the same streets, shop at the same shopping malls, drive on the same pot holed roads as the us the other 50 million South Africans.
Being a journalist or a judge, spending 10 hours of the day with similar professionals, does not magically exempt one from independently developing ideas on how to relate with other members of society and its institutions. This is because social and political ideas and values are for the most part a product of our individual material experiences. As a result any suggestion that four years of training as a lawyer or a journalist can erase a lifetime of real experience is unscientific.
The media and judiciary much like other social institutions are examples of living dynamic systems. Though governed by strict and might I add IDEAL rules of conduct, the enforcement of these codes is limited by the dynamism of this system. Through the continues movement of its composite actors; ideas are transmitted on an going basis between and within institutions and its members and importantly the rest of society. As a result the values and ideas held by these institutions, though continuously contested, are nothing but the distillation of the sum of the respective material experiences of the actors within the system.
Intuitively this may seem like a difficult idea to accept, however looked at from the eyes of an egalitarian it seems there is some comfort in knowing the judges sitting on the Constitutional Court Bench are fallible human beings as I am. This would also hold true for journalists and elected political officials.
Accepting this, it stands that the ideal we should be striving for as a society is not of puritanical "independence and impartiality". Instead we should strive for plurality of views. The solution is not less, the solution is more. We need more diverse voices expressing the diverse experiences of South Africans in our newsrooms and court rooms.
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