Editorial: No news isn’t good news

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Hlaudi Motsoeneng (Picture: City Press)
Hlaudi Motsoeneng (Picture: City Press)

At some point, we should say enough is enough. It all began in 2013, when then acting – and now current – SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng demanded that the public broadcaster air 70% sunshine journalism on its radio and TV stations.

“The media normally focus on negative publicity. I believe, from the SABC’s side, 70% should be positive [news] stories and then you can have 30% negative stories. The reason I am championing this is because, if you only talk about the negative, people cannot even try to think on their feet. Because what occupies their mind is all this negative stuff,” Motsoeneng said at the time.

And this week, he upped the ante when he declared – just as he had done two weeks ago, when he announced the broadcaster’s decision to air 90% local music on its radio stations – that the SABC would no longer show video footage of violent protests.

“It is regrettable that these actions are disrupting many lives and, as a responsible public institution, we will not assist these individuals [violent protesters] to push their agenda that seeks media attention.

“As a public service broadcaster, we have a mandate to educate the citizens, and we therefore have taken this bold decision to show that violent protests are not necessary.”

In the past, Motsoeneng has banned political commentators and analysts from appearing on talk shows, and ordered camera crew not to show crowd footage at opposition parties’ rallies.

For your information, Mr Motsoeneng, you cannot censor news. During the apartheid regime, the government tried to censor everything that was shown on TV, heard on radio and covered in newspapers. But it failed, as information of what was going on in the country would be smuggled out and carried by international media.

In today’s information age, Motsoeneng can stop the SABC from carrying videos of violent protests, but he cannot prevent the public from accessing the material via a range of sources – mobile, online and privately owned TV stations.

So, Mr Motsoeneng, understand that news has a way of taking on a life of its own; it is unstoppable. The country deserves to see news as it happens, without filters, so do the right thing and let your journalists report, unhindered.

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