Monday, August 2, 2010
Jail journalists - Nzimande says at SACP's 89th anniversary celebration
Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the SA Communist Party, says the country's media is a direct threat to democracy
Speaking at the SACP's 89th anniversary celebration in Rustenburg, North West, Nzimande said his party understood the importance of a free media but establishing the controversial media tribunal was one way to ensure "responsible journalism" and restore the sector's "credibility".
He said the proposed tribunal, to be discussed at the ANC's policy conference next month, was necessary because the press ombudsman "is toothless and useless".
There was no recourse for those who were defamed by reports, he said.
"We know the importance of free media because it was the communists that went to jail for that," said Nzimande.
"But we want a media tribunal that will hold journalists accountable. If there is one serious threat to our democracy, it is a media that is accountable to itself."
He accused the media of being an "extension of the opposition".
Journalists were always "looking for bad news out of the ANC and its alliance partners".
"We have no . opposition other than the bourgeois media.
"The manner in which the newspapers report is an extension of the opposition and an example of that is the way in which they reported on the DA conference.
"You will never find a positive story being reported on out of an ANC conference," said Nzimande.
The ANC last week released its discussion document on the proposed tribunal, first hinted at during its 2008 Polokwane national conference. It would impose tougher sanctions on reporters who "get it wrong". The document accuses the print media of an "astonishing degree of dishonesty, lack of professional integrity and lack of independence".
The document says the ANC, as the governing party, is responsible for encouraging the media to report responsibly.
Nzimande echoed the ANC call for journalists found to have published false reports to be fined or jailed. He said the ANC-led alliance should not allow itself to be "blackmailed" or made to believe that the move to establish a tribunal was an attempt to stifle media freedom.
"If we want our journalism to mature, we should not be blackmailed. [But] we don't care anymore because, if we do not do this, the media will steal our media that we fought so hard for.
"We pioneered progressive journalism in this country and, because we are pioneers, we must encourage the tribunal because of the rise of gutter journalism," he said.
DA leader Helen Zille spoke out against the planned tribunal yesterday.
Writing in her on-line newsletter, Zille said: "The ANC wants to control the independent media through a parliamentary media tribunal (stacked with ANC MPs).
"The inevitable result will be a compliant media, seeking to appease this jury of politicians with a keen interest in keeping the media in check.
"The inevitable result is that all our news will begin to resemble what we regularly see on SABC TV - a party broadcaster rather than a public broadcaster," Zille said.