Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2003-01-24 Reporter: Comments and Analysis Editor:

Media are Not Melanin-Deficient


Publication  Mail and Guardian
Date 2003-01-24


Comments & Analysis

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From time to time, some ruling party loudmouth will get up and accuse the media of being unrehabilitated relics of our apartheid past bent on derailing the transformation of society. Frothing at the mouth, they blame the media for all South Africa’s ills - short of El Nino and other unexplained phenomena such as the continued existence of Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

This week it was the turn of Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Lindiwe Hendricks to sing this tired tune.

“The press in South Africa is still in the hands of the white minority ... When there’s a mistake they amplify it. They hardly ever focus on the good news,” Hendricks is reported to have told Saudi journalists.

Now, if Hendricks and her colleagues bother to update themselves on contemporary South Africa, they would discover that a large portion of media assets is in black hands and the bulk of English language newspapers are headed by people with a reasonable amount of melanin in their system. The current ferment in the media industry, where black entrepreneurs are buying and launching new products, is further proof that transformation is not the mirage it is made out to be.

They would also discover that while South Africa does have critical media, the South African media institutions are broadly supportive of government policies and initiatives.

But journalists are themselves as guilty of hyperbole as the loudmouths. When politicians snipe at the media, the hysterical reaction from many journalists is that press freedom is under threat.

The fact is that while there may be some within the ranks of the ANC - and the opposition parties - who are uncomfortable with the level of media freedom in the country, press freedom is not under threat. South Africans trust their newspapers and it is the public that the enemies of press freedom, whoever they may be, will come up against.

Instead of politicians railing against an imaginary reactionary press and journalists fearing a non-existent threat, we should celebrate the fact that we live in a society where Essop Pahad and The Citizen can co-exist.

With acknowledgement to the Mail and Guardian.