The attack on the media by newly elected ANC President Jacob Zuma displays ignorance of the reality of the media, writes Dumisani Nyalunga,  Media and Advocacy Officer of MISA-SA). The media can't be pressed into service for a particular ideology or perspective.

Dumisani Nyalunga, Media and Advocacy Officer of (MISA-SA) writes:

It is public knowledge that the media industry worldwide is a subject of criticism and condemnation and often labeled as bias, most especially when it opts for a critical reporting stance. When it exposes corruption, maladministration, poor service delivery and misconduct of public office bearers and politicians.

The ANC president Jacob Zuma is a vocal critic of the media in the country. He is known for publicly lashing out the media and his multi-million lawsuits against media outlets, editors, cartoonists and media professionals over defamation and crimen injuria claims. ANC President Zuma’s attack succinctly reveals his wishes to alter the way in which the media industry operates in the county, hence to strip it of its independence. Unfortunately, the Constitution of the country guarantees the freedom of the press and other media. Media freedom is entrenched by the supreme law of the land and no amount of attack can temper with it.

Detractors of print media should learn to appreciate and acknowledge that established media outlets would continue to do a better job of covering politics and policy. It is imperative that elected leaders embrace media criticism at all levels. Blaming the media reinforces tendencies toward conspiratorial thinking. It crowds out creative thinking about how to make use of the media as part of the nation-building project. This is however not to suggest that top politicians and even ordinary citizens should not raise concerns about media reports.

They have every right to condemn bad journalism by following appropriate channels as provided for by the media industry. The office of the Press Ombudsman is charged with the resposibility to provide a quick and inexpensive resolution for people who feel they have been wronged by print reports.

The problem however, with our elected leaders such as the ANC President Zuma, who continuously wage undue attack on the media and label the industry as following a conservative perspective and ideologically out of synch with the society in which it operates. These are very loud generalizations, indeed as the SA National Editors Forum correctly pointed out, his attacks reveals a hostile state of mind towards the media.

ANC President Zuma’s claim that the media in South Africa today is not diverse is mistakable and actually a gross misrepresentation of the industry. The fact of the matter is that the media industry in the country is heterogeneous in editorial terms and otherwise.

When politicians and government complain about the nature of media coverage, they are actually demanding that the media abandon an independent journalistic stance and champion their cause by reporting what they want reported. This is in effect what people from the left and right constantly do: attack the media with the hope that they will bend in their direction, and then blame the media if their program fails.

Unfortunately, The media cannot be lobbied nor dragged to following certain defined political and ideological perspectives, other than those of public interest nature. MISA-SA encourages our leaders to acknowledged the fact that the role of the media is to become critical of government and politicians.

Also to safeguard our maturing democracy and above all to inform the public about things that happens around them. MISA-SA urges our leaders to refrain from brutally attacking the media and should also stop dictating the manner in which the media ought to operate. Such undue attacks are nothing but efforts to silence critical media and to interfere with its freedom and independence.