OPINION | Attacks by politicians will not deter journalists
The most patriotic thing a journalist can do is ask questions of politicians.
And then ask them again. And again.
This has become even more necessary and urgent today, when the journalistic profession is under siege more than ever before.
It has become the fashion for politicians to attack journalists, denigrate them, call them names and demand “patriotism” from them.
Politicians demand that their hypocrisy and their misdeeds be ignored and that they be treated with kid gloves.
Many move around with armies of communications personnel and yet they demand to be treated with deference when they have to account for their actions or just tell the truth.
In this way, they wish to swat away the one profession that stands between them and outright plunder and looting.
It must not be allowed to happen.
Last week we saw more examples of this egregious behaviour here at home and abroad.
Is the ANC’s Ace Magashule guilty of taking bribes from the Gupta family and creaming off millions from every contract entered into by the Free State government while he was in charge of the province?
Instead of responding to the very serious charges put to him, Magashule chose to say that there was a conspiracy against him by the media.
Does the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu have his snout deep in the trough at VBS, alongside his brother and the various other ANC politicians and businesspeople implicated in the looting there?
Instead of the EFF dealing with these serious allegations we are told by the party’s president that the leaders of “white monopoly capital” have unleashed their media puppets to tarnish the organisation’s name.
Answer the question: did Shivambu go to Stellenbosch with the same bosses of “white monopoly capital” and try to establish a business using money looted at VBS?
In the US, President Donald Trump was doing his best to emulate tin-pot dictators who attack media organisations.
“The press is doing everything within their power to fight the magnificence of the phrase, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” he tweeted.
“They can’t stand the fact that this Administration has done more than virtually any other Administration in its first 2yrs.
“They are truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
This has become an almost weekly ritual for the president of the US, but one really worries when you consider that he said this in the same week that he spoke of “getting rid of judges”.
Talking about migration, Trump said: “They have to get rid of catch and release, chain migration, visa lottery, they have to get rid of the whole asylum system because it doesn’t work, and frankly, we should get rid of judges.
“You can’t have a court case every time somebody steps foot on our ground.”
There was a time when one would expect the US to stand for values such as judicial independence and media freedom. Now we are here.
Will the media’s vigour be cowed and its operations be curtailed by the ANC, which is expected to win the upcoming elections?
The party’s stance against censorship and for media freedom during apartheid is well known and without parallel.
What is incredible is that the organisation that over the past century stood with the great journalists of our times – from Nat Nakasa to Zwelakhe Sisulu – last week issued the most chilling threat against the media I have seen since 1994, worse even than threats of media tribunals.
This was the statement from ANC spokesperson Dakota Legoete on the Magashule matter: “We have therefore taken it on the chin when the media and other opponents of the ANC have deliberately sought to attack certain leaders of the ANC and spread doubt about the unity of purpose of the leadership.
“However, the maturity the ANC has exhibited is not being reciprocated, rather it seems that our good nature is taken advantage of.
“And, as the ANC and the leadership, we are growing weary.”
The good nature of the ANC? Has the ANC been doing us a favour all this time, “being nice”, instead of believing in media freedom and accountability?
Wow, wow, wow. But here’s the chilling part: The ANC is “growing weary”. What will it do then when it’s weary? Kill people?
The statement is incredible given that Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of the ANC and the country, used to be a shareholder and chairman of a media company.
With the elections just here, these attacks will continue.
But politicians must never think that their attacks will stop the questions being asked.
Ask ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte: she has been attacking journalists for years. We are still here, asking questions...