May 8, 2009

Zuma victory puts world press on notice?

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 6:28 pm

Zapiro in hot water or cold?

Zapiro in hot water or cold?

The ANC and in particular Jacob Zuma’s win “puts world press on notice”. This is the essence of an article in The Australian by Bruce Loudon | April 27, 2009 and revolves around Ranjeni Munusamy’s views on the tension between the ANC president and the press – what she calls “seven years of slander” of Zuma. Correctly, she says that the media “has not told the Jacob Zuma story — apart from the criminal cases against him and battles in theANC”. She also adds: “Zuma’s challenge (after the election victory) is to govern and deliver on the ANC’s election promises. It’s up to the media to find a way out of the corner they painted themselves into, and migrate to a position of neutrality and credibility to report on the new government.” It further quotes the executive director of the Freedom of Expression Institute, Jane Duncan, who says that “there’s a lot of unhappiness within the ANC over coverage of Zuma, and that will be even more the case now that the party has won such a strong vote of confidence from the electorate.” In addition, she said: “there is a deep-seated anger and resentment among many. I definitely think there are elements within the ANC and government who are trying to limit media freedom. And I think that it has actually been a fairly long-term trend. (…) The political culture has been one of growing hostility towards a free and independent media, and that has now been transformed into a strategy.”

Senior ANC official deny this, but it appears that the case against Zapiro is set to continue. Zapiro draws the president of the ANC and the country with a shower – like halo – over his head, after the president appeared in a court case where he was accused (and acquitted of rape). During cross examination president Zuma spoke of having taken a shower after having sex with an HIV person, so as to reduce his chances of contracting the virus. He later apologized for the comments on national radio and television saying: “I should have been more cautious and more responsible,” said Zuma in an interview to SABC radio at the time. “I erred on this issue and on this, I apologise. The continuing dispute of the Z’s (Zuma vs Zapiro) is the cartoon on the rape of justice. The drawing shows African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma unbuckling his belt in front of a lady justice who is being held down by leaders of the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP), the ANC Youth League and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), with the word “Go for it boss.”

Democracy needs dissenters as well as consenters. One without the other will lead to a Stalinised society, which will numb not only our limbs but our brains. The ANC must meet the press on principles, of free and fair comment, nothing more. Once there is agreement on what it means to have media that keeps our politicians and the private sector (and of course some of the big bucks NGOs too) accountable we can say that the media is doing a fine job. A media that is on the side of the people is one that opens up debate, and informs people of their choices, and one that reports the truth without fear or favour. This has been lacking in South Africa of recent times when leaks became news and the media became a player in the factional wars inside the ANC. Zapiro has been his own man, a mudracker of repute.

So does the ANC victory put the press on notice? I doubt it. See Zapiro cartoon.


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