Mixed media response to City Press decision

2012-05-29 13:53

Johannesburg - Newspaper editorials and cartoons on Tuesday showed mixed responses to City Press editor Ferial Haffajee's decision to remove an image of a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma with genitals exposed.

Citizen cartoonist Siwela sketched a triptych of Haffajee's journey through the controversy with the first speech bubble saying "I won't...", the second saying "...take the picture down..." and the third "...unless you bully me."

A strap at the bottom read "The editor's indecision is final..."

After more than a week of controversy over whether artist Brett Murray should have painted The Spear and whether Haffajee should have published an image of it, Haffajee took the image down on Monday.

She had originally said she would not but since then, in a piece explaining her decision, she said a boycott was called, she was personally insulted, newspaper vendors were intimidated and a journalist was evicted from a conference.

The Citizen said it was easy when not at the centre of a storm to pass judgement, but it was different when newspapers were being burnt, vendors intimidated and journalists evicted.

"While sympathising with the newspaper, we regret the impression that the bullies have won."

The Times drew readers' attention to the body of a newborn baby found in a drain in Pretoria and said the painting must not make the country lose sight of real issues.

Zuma had the resources to take the painting issue to court. "But who assisted this mother in that awful moment, when she was stripped of her dignity, as she fell into a dark place that led her to dump her child?"

The New Age welcomed Haffajee's move and agreed with the ANC that the portrait insulted Zuma.

It urged the party and its supporters to keep emotions in check during a protest march on Tuesday to the Goodman Gallery, which had exhibited the painting.

The Sowetan said lessons learned were: trying to bury racism by throwing labels at those who believed they are being humiliated did not solve the problem, and that most who did this had benefited from apartheid.

Victims of racism could interpret their behaviour as trying to dictate how racism should be defined in the new South Africa.

Conflating criticism with racism can undermine the challenges of building a new society, the editorial said.

Business Day said that "As hard as it must have been, [Haffajee] did the right thing yesterday..."

She had taken a "third rate" ethnically targeted newspaper and contrived a bright involved read for all South Africans that had been excellent in pursuit of the corruption of powerful politicians and senior policemen and that took courage.

The lessons were that it could no longer be claimed that artistic freedom existed in South Africa and that the notion of freedom of expression "has been horribly damaged" by the ANC reaction.

It also showed how inadequate South African law was against hate speech on social media, especially Twitter.

The march on the gallery was a measure "of the almost medieval depths to which Jacob Zuma's strange republic has fallen".

"Beware the pitchforks and torches," the editorial ended.

Business Day cartoonist Brandan Reynolds drew Zuma atop the now defaced painting, magic carpet style and carrying a spear, with part of the word "Manguang" drawn over it, in reference to the ANC's next conference to elect a president in December.

The speech bubble read: "I'm not one to look a gift horse in the..."

  • rory.short1 - 2012-05-29 15:16

    The purpose of art is to communicate a message. But is the nature of much art that the message is multi-layered and open to different interpretations. Thus to some extent people get the message that they want from it. I don't Agree with most of those who see the spear as being denigratory of black people in general. However so many people do see it in that way that I think Ferial was correct to withdraw it for that reason. However people by focussing just on that understanding are losing out from profiting from other messages contained in the painting.

  • Allan - 2012-05-29 15:43

    The ANC and its alliance partners called a boycott of the City Press newspaper and forced them to remove the painting from their web site - the bully won this round Now Gwende lets see how good the ANC and its partners are in removing it from Wikipedia, CNN, BBC etc. websites Strange how little you can do when you no longer the biggest bully? - and the winner is?

      June - 2012-05-30 14:01

      I agree. The picture was about a dictator. If nothing else this saga has shown us that we do not have freedom of expression and are the laughing stock of the free world.

  • Tawizee - 2012-05-29 15:55

    And what did you, news24, say?

  • maseratifittipaldi - 2012-05-29 20:09

    Such a nice warm feeling when a few hundred tough ANC warriors defeat a lady.

  • Clive - 2012-05-29 21:10

    A sad day for our democracy when a political party can dictate to a newspaper what it publishes. The ANC becomes more and more of a bully as time goes by - like the Nats of old. Perhaps there are too many unreconstructed communists (Stalinists) in the top structures of the ANC, which might also be a contributory factor as to why foreign investment is not exactly pouring in.

  • micheal.moolman - 2012-05-30 05:36

    I concur with 'curriemafia' it's time to move on, enough of this tired, worn out and now very boring topic.

  • sibonangaye - 2012-05-30 09:09

    this a lesson to be learnt public opinion matters a lot. It doesnt matter what the inetention of the painter was but the interpretation by the public, hence Ferial did the right thing.

  • Bullard - 2012-05-30 10:35

    Dont care about the paintin...Fact remains in reality>>"ANC has failed dismilly to rule this country"...Its shockin and a disgrace._their reaction towards the paintin proves it.

  • 123sdp - 2012-05-30 11:03

    I am soooooooo bored with S.A and its he said, she said nonsense. I don't even think of myself being South-African or having a goverment. Cause I can not relate to the ways they do things. I just try and make my life the best I can. I hope to see this country make the best of what they have - One day...

      Hugh - 2012-05-30 11:41

      Sadly your right, and with all the name changes, its like driving in a foreign county I have no relation with..

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