Bloggers unite to help fend off ANC Youth League intimidation

2010-03-24 12:33

IN a move which may prove the power of the sometimes maligned new

media, bloggers are expected to come out from behind their modems today and

align themselves with their mainstream colleagues of the Press.

A nationwide appeal for South African bloggers to support freedom

of the Press – after the ANC Youth League’s (ANCYL’s) recent attempt to

intimidate journalists through blackmail – has become the talk of Twitter, the

popular social networking site.

In the appeal, which is headed by writer Sipho

Hlongwane, writers are asked to join him in publishing pro-Press freedom

messages on their blogs and in sending them, via his #SpeakZA campaign, to the

ANC and ANCYL today.

The campaign is in response to ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu’s

threat to publicise information on the private lives of journalists who have

exposed some of ANCYL president Julius Malema’s business interests.

Mainstream journalists have welcomed the move. South African

National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) chairperson Jovial Rantao said any effort to

support journalists and freedom of the media was appreciated.

“Journalists must be allowed to do their legitimate work of

informing the public,” he said.

Rantao said the latest attempts by the ANCYL to intimidate the

media were cause for concern.

He said, however, it was “important that the president of the ANC

and the country has responded with concern and alarm about the conduct of the

youth league”.

South African bloggers were to email Hlongwane before 9pm yesterday

if they wanted to be part of the protest. A short message or editorial would

then be emailed to all interested members on a blog role so that they could

publish the message on their blogs.

The campaign aims to encourage South Africans to speak out through

whatever medium they are able to, to show the ANCYL that South Africans will not

accept an attack on media freedom.

“I think a lot of South Africans share my worries regarding the

latest trends from the youth league,” said Hlongwane.

He refers to these trends as “a definite step in the direction of

dictatorial rule in South Africa. All South Africans should be very concerned”.

As of Tuesday evening, he said, responses had exceeded his

expectations. He was “stunned” by the number of individual bloggers who offered

their support.

Hopes for a positive reaction from the youth league were slim,

however: “These people (the youth league) don’t respect the Press at all. I

don’t expect them to respect a group of bloggers.”

But the aim was “to show South Africans that there are people out

there who care about the Constitution and are not going to stand by and watch as

the youth league destroys our country”.

“I think it sends a powerful message that bloggers have a presence

on the media map and an important role to play in our democratic state. Blogging

is often referred to as the ‘fifth estate’, and movements such as these support

the notion,” said new media guru Matthew Buckland, the CEO of digital consulting

agency Creative Spark.

“In many ways blogging is the most democratic form of publishing.

In most cases it comes directly from the individual’s mouth – unedited, raw and

unfiltered. It is freedom of expression at its most fundamental.”


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