Portrait of Zuma’s asset or penis

2012-05-21 11:03

Like many other conscience driven individuals, I am also an individual of values and ethics myself but I have always treasured the need for respect, dignity, justice and dialogue even with people I disapprove of or disagree with. Members of the African National Congress (ANC) are correct and justified in expressing their anger at Brett Murray’s art work The Spear - a portrait seemingly or allegedly of President Jacob Zuma with his zip open and penis exposed.

Comedy and satire do not have to involve such distasteful and inhuman mockery. This is definitely not satire or humour. It is truly humiliating, distasteful and bad-mannered.

The paradox about “freedom” is that in whichever context it is used it carries with it that context’s boundaries. In some cases the boundaries are narrow and in other they are extremely wide, but boundaries are or should exist.

Freedom of expression is a universal human right but it is wrong to use civil freedom laws to annoy and distastefully insult individuals, people’s cultural beliefs or religion. Freedom from insults and provocation, respect and dignity is an essential right which should be guaranteed to one and all including President Jacoub Zuma.

Freedom of expression and speech, and its extension, freedom of the press, is not absolute and it should be used with respect. It must be curtailed at a certain point before it becomes treacherous, insulting humiliating. The pen and by extension, the “paint brush”, like the mass media, are powerful tools and should be used for the correct reasons and should not unjustly dehumanise individuals, groups and communities. Journalists, cartoonists, artists and authors need to find a balance and that fine line between freedom of expression and the right to dignity, respect and values.

Similarly, elected ministers are civil servants of the people and their duties are regarded as a great responsibility. The basic values and ethics applying to the conduct of public officials are long-established. There is a responsibility not simply to just observe the law, but to act both in official and, where appropriate, personal capacities in a manner so meticulous that it will be able to bear the closest public scrutiny.

If we all take our social responsibilities seriously and we act in civil society in an honourable manner then we will not have events such as the current “Zuma painting” saga. Our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, unfortunately, has little meaning for some of our people in power. Public office holders and Ministers have a duty to be upholders of the law, responsive to public fears, concerns and interests.

As humans we need to find amicable and constructive ways to settle issues that affect us directly in our daily lives. Insensitive drawings, using derogatory language and vomiting out spurious invectives will just add more fuel to the fire.

In order to fast track the healing process in our country, we must reassess our approach towards each other and enter into meaningful debate and dialogue so as to negotiate solutions for the betterment and respect of the larger and broader community rather than winning a battle for our selfish pride.

The media is the most powerful entity on the earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses to quote Malcolm X.

The mass Media’s objective and desire should be directed at education, the study of facts and establishing mercy, truth, justice, equality and human rights.

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