Second Critical Thinking Forum on Media Freedom

by Aug 27, 2010All Articles

On Tuesday, 25th August, AIDC/Amandla! in partnership with the Mail and Guardian held the second – in a series of four – critical thinking forums on media freedom in Cape Town which saw the Mandela Gateway at the Waterfront packed to capacity.

Chaired by Judge Dennis Davis, the speakers included Mazibuko Jara (Amandla! Magazine), Nic Dawes (Mail and Guardian), Mondli Makhanya (SANEF National Chair), Ben Turok (ANC) and Dene Smuts (DA).

Professor Ben Turok started by distancing himself from the Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) and Protection of Information Bill (POI), instead, he wasted no time in launching an attack of the gutter journalism which exists by criticising a misleading headline in a recent article on Jacob Zuma’s trip to China. Mondli Makhanya apologised for the headline which he said was unacceptable.

Turok rather debated the low standards of journalism than the content of the Protection of Information Bill (POI) and Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT), which he said he did not support. Mazibuko Jara pointed out that the ANC’s policy resolution at Polokwane gave support to community media and media on the periphery of the mainstream, but that the promises had not been fulfilled.  Jara further stated that media houses fell in-line with the ANC’s stance on promoting profit maximisation is all sectors of the economy and that media commercialisation was a creation of ANC economic policy. He also spoke about the failure of current institutions such as the MDDA to diversify media, and called for the strengthening of these organisations rather than pursuing a media tribunal. The crisis unleashed by the Protection Of Information Bill (POI) and the Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) should have promoted a re-consideration of the ANC’s failed policy to diversify the media landscape.

Dene Smuts was asked to comment on Helga Jansen’s (who opened the debate) assertion that the media had become the unofficial opposition which reflected the anxiety in a predominantly white middle class rather than the issues of the majority and the working class who’s news was relegated to the tabloid reports.  Smuts gave a vague response and said that as the official opposition they stand opposed to the Media Appeals Tribunal and Protection of Information Bill. She ensured the audience that the parliamentary procedures would change the proposal, which was met with scepticism.

Other speakers such as Nic Dawes gave a point by point evaluation of the proposals, saying that the POI bill and the MAT would lead to media repression.

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