AT the heart of the events surrounding the EFF ban of some media outlets and the departure of one journalist and the suspension of another at eNCA, lies a heap of hypocrisy – from journalists including the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) who remain silent about the ethical misconduct of media houses and newsroom managers. But there also arises a fundamental issue on whether publications which skew news to suit their preferred individuals should not be barred from events of those they have positioned as culprits.
THE Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) banned several journalists from covering its national elective conference this past weekend. As expected, the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) together with the banned media houses released copious amounts of columns citing their displeasure at the EFF’s decision. Censorship, they cried – stemming from the stories on alleged corruption by EFF leaders, they explained. They also brought in the infringement of the constitution as a rebuttal – that those who deny the media access to events infringe the media’s right to freedom of expression. And wait! They also said the decision infringed on the right of citizens to know facts and make informed decisions when voting. This would be funny if the truth didnt lie in the fact that establishment media publish and protect the interests of their bosses – capitalists and advertisers – and in the South African environment, white monopoly capital (WMC). As will become clear below, one of the television stations, eNCA’s head of news, Kanthan Pillay who is also a politician, allegedly interfered in editorial decisions to skew news for or against some individuals. Try finding columns of outrage by establishment media on a politician who heads a newsroom – very few if any.
The EFF on the other hand claimed “freedom of association”. In a world that espouses divergent ideas of thought, the matter of freedom of expression versus freedom of association within the context of the banning of media that was biased against a political party would have been an important debate in a democracy. But not in South Africa, where establishment media have taken sides on just about every issue and have decided on who the villains and the culprits are.
EFF banned amaBhungane and Daily Maverick from covering the national elective conference. However the party said it had not banned Rapport and Caxton despite claims by Sanef which has vowed to ask Parliament to sanction EFF if it didn’t reverse its decision. We now know that the EFF didn’t abide by the threat and instead challenged Sanef to go ahead and complain to MPs about their decision. We shall see how this pans out in the new year when parliament reconvenes.
The stories about VBS Mutual Bank and alleged looting by the two EFF leaders have focused solely on the two while there are many others implicated in the demise of the mutual bank. The stories have become personal and while this in itself doesnt mean they are not true – they do however give a skewed picture of the story and suggest that only Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu are the beneficiaries of the bank’s looting spree.
News24, whose editor, Adriaan Basson’s friendship breakup with EFF’s Julius Malema and their collusion to bring down former President Jacob Zuma was splashed on the newspaper’s columns, bragged about how he would offer the banned newspapers copy from the national conference.
In a sign of absolute hypocrisy, not that there isn’t hypocrisy all over this story, eNCA, a day into the conference, decided to take what it called a “principled” decision to withdraw its coverage of EFF’s conference. eNCA already knew of the ban and yet it went ahead only to turn-around and withdraw coverage. One of its journalists, Samkele Maseko, was seen laughing at the conference after Malema mocked him for a “stupid question” he asked on whether the liquidated VBS had paid for the conference – it seems he defied his bosses decision to stay away from the conference.
Maseko resigned two days ago. The journalist took to Twitter to bid his colleagues farewell saying he had had no time to say “goodbye”, sparking speculation about his relationship with eNCA’s Jeremy Maggs and his departure. He later returned to Twitter to say he wasnt fired and instead had resigned and was told to leave immediately. He painted a picture of a cordial separation.
A post by the leader of the political party, South African Capitalist Party who is now head of news at eNCA provoked Maseko to a point of exposing some of the shenanigans at the television network including interfering in some news items.
The tweet in which Kanthan Pillay speaks of “Rats swimming toward a sinking ship” which Maseko interpreted to be a jab about him, has sparked such outrage that many journalists and radio personalities have come out with stories of an uncouth, racist and sexist Pillay. But for goodness sakes, did it have to take Pillay’s racist arrogance to prompt the cleansing of the souls of these individuals?
Pillay’s political party’s nickname was the “purple cow”.
Maseko’s issue reminds us of another event of editorial interference at the television station when another journalist Aldrin Sampeer’s show was pulled off air for “technical reasons” shortly before interviewing attorney Raymond Challom, who has consistently claimed to have evidence implicating the judiciary in wrong-doing. Sampeer resigned on the day when the interview of a re-broadcast was scheduled, without giving details. The network didn’t give reasons either and the white monopoly capital controlled media didnt ask questions and Sanef didn’t question media freedom ethics in that particular instance. Sampeer himself protected his former bosses and didnt divulge reasons for leaving.
Under pressure, Sanef released a lame statement this afternoon on its concern on allegations of editorial interference https://sanef.org.za/sanef-deeply-concerned-by-allegations-of-editorial-interference-in-the-newsroom-at-enca/