Media warned on self-censorship

2010-10-19 15:26

Johannesburg - The media's self-regulation should not turn into self-censorship, ANC veteran Kader Asmal said on Tuesday.

"... Self-censorship and the forces that conspire to ensure its evolution are equally dangerous," Asmal said in a speech prepared for delivery at the University of the Witwaterstrand to mark Black Wednesday.

Asmal noted weekend reports that the ANC's proposed Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) may be side-lined, and given a more "pro-active approach" to self-regulation by the media themselves.

ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe on Saturday said if the media got its house in order, there would be no need for the highly contentious MAT.

He was speaking after a meeting between the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) and government ministers.

Asmal asked: "When does self-regulation degenerate into self-censorship?"

Broader tension highlighted

He said this approach would be "consistent" with the ANC's decision to move the debate over the MAT to Parliament - as was decided at its national general council in Durban last month.

"... A robust discussion on self-regulation may be more apposite than a brow-beating session about the prospect of a MAT.

"However, the issue highlights a broader tension and discourse... It is the tacit discourse of fear and self-censorship which stalks all these debates about media behaviour and possible control mechanisms whether they are to be in the private (self-regulation) or public (MAT prospect) realm."

To illustrate this Asmal said the arrest and subsequent release of Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika was "particularly important".

Wa Afrika, he said, was "questionably arrested" and was subjected to a "dubious prosecution", which was summarily dismissed, and "unconstitutional treatment" during his arrest and detention.

"Subsequently Mr Wa Afrika could easily have self-censored his activities having been brow-beaten by a rather hair-raising experience or he could simply step right back into his journalistic ethos and continue to pursue the truth.

"He chose to do the latter and produced another headline about the dubious circumstances surrounding the death of Mpumalanga politician James Nkambule who may have been poisoned."

'Partly free' media

Kader said this was the "nature of the tension when intimidatory tactics breed an atmosphere of fear of persecution in one form or another which results in self-censorship which may be more effective than... actual censorship".

"It is this very prospect of a 'fear instrument of persecution' (the putative MAT) which would clearly result in self-censorship which makes debates on responsible self-regulation all the more crucial in the aftermath of Sanef's meeting with government."

Asmal said it was worrying that South Africa's press was downgraded from "free" to "partly free" in the Freedom House annual report for 2010.

Worrying trends in the country included "hostile government rhetoric" toward the media, "increasing political interference" in the SABC, using "gag orders" to limit reporting, and concentration of ownership in the print and broadcast sectors.

The report was released before the ANC NGC's resolution on the MAT and before the "draconian" protection of information bill and the arrest of Wa Afrika.

Asmal said it was worth asking who was responsible for protecting free speech in South Africa.


Collective responsibility


"It is my contention, and it is partly bolstered by observing this weekend's meeting between Sanef and government, that it is our collective responsibility, but note that the Bill of Rights states that it is the duty of the government to protect these rights, not to minimise them."

He added that self-regulation must not "surrender" the "core element of a free press", which was "its right to determine its own opinions and to record the facts".

"Neither must there be a continuing element of those who have changed to self-regulation to meet the needs or prejudices of economic or political power.

"It is our collective responsibility for if it is possible to step back from the brink of potentially harmful laws and/or regulations that could create for us the kind of 'false democracy'...which would be a repudiation of our very own struggle for freedom."

The country, he said, managed through sacrifice to secure a new dispensation that placed free speech and access to information as a "lodestar" of the new order. "We cannot and must not allow any denigration of these core beliefs that were so dearly won."

He warned that societies who failed to ensure that their citizens engaged freely, were living "on borrowed time".

"We would do well to remember that as we recall Black Wednesday and the system which it symbolised."

Black Wednesday commemorates October 19 1977, when apartheid Justice Minister Jimmy Kruger banned several newspapers and black political organisations. It also saw a host of government critics detained.

The newspapers that were banned included The World, Weekend World and Pro Veritate.

- SAPA

Read more on:    anc  |  sanef  |  mzilikazi wa afrika  |  kgalema motlanthe  |  kadar asmal  |  media
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Table View - 07:10 AM
    Road name: Koeberg Road Northbound
    STATIONARY TRUCK in the right lane before Plattekloof Road
  • Thursday Langa - 07:08 AM
    Road name: N7 Vanguard Drive Northbound
    DELAYS between Govan Mbeki Road bridge and Jakkalsvlei Avenue
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Canon EOS 600D

The Canon EOS 600D Digital Camera puts the widely respected...

From R5389.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be required to travel or get information for your job. This may be restricting in some way or something may slow things...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.