Labour Wrap: Heading for a slippery slope

SOUTH Africa has moved a step closer towards a slippery slope that ends with the crushing of media freedom and freedom of expression, says Terry Bell in his latest Labour wrap.

Highighting this fact was the death of Suna Venter where a definite contributory factor was the assaults and the intimidation to which she was exposed.

This was followed by threats against journalists from that tiny politically Illiterate group going by the name of Black First Land First (BLF). But, says Bell, such behaviour on the “lunatic fringes” is encouraged by the paranoia promoted by elements within the governing ANC who persist in maintaining that a imperialist plot exists to bring about “regime change”.

The same applies to the constant calls for unity at all costs and for a form of “discipline” that is no more than a demand that all toe the line of the leadership.

He maintains that the comment this week by South African Federation of Trade Unions general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, that it was this sort of paranoia that led to often horrendous human rights abuses within the ANC in exile. At the time politically illiterate thugs, undoubtedly aided and betted by infiltrators, arrested, tortured and executed many who dared question the leadership.

Every citizen who cares about our democratic gains should be concerned about these developments, says Bell. Because media workers - reporters, editors, photographers, camera people and so on – perform a vital function within any society with a pretence at democratic norms.

He points out that the role of journalism is to be the eyes and ears of the public at large. It is, he maintains, an incredibly important role that puts journalism almost on the plane of a vocation rather than a job.

However, he admits that there have been many examples of journalistic standards falling well below this level; of “brown envelopes” being given to journalists by politicians for favourable coverage; of editors, perhaps bribed, fearful for their jobs or otherwise intimidated, having allowed the pages of their publications to be abused. 

Globally, says Bell, there has been an increase in attacks on journalists and on media freedom generally.  It is therefore in the interests of ever individual to resist this trend and to pull South Africa back from that slippery slope.


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