Media Monday Bulletin - The Spear: benching debate; ET trial youth named; Child Protection Week

Posted: 28 May 2012 | News - Newsletter | Categories: Children, Race, Xenophobia and Ethnicity, Democracy and Governance, Media Freedom and Performance

Here is what we have for you this Media Monday:

·         The Spear – is mudslinging replacing real debate & discussion?

·         Was it right to name the ET trial accused?

·         Child Protection Week is upon us

The Spear: Are the ANC vs media threats benching debate?

We know by now about how The Spear divided the nation and has been the biggest bone of contention over the past week or two. It has been the centre of attention and the most topical issue at many discussions and in various media spaces. Some said the painting and the furore it created provided the best smoke screen for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and directed attention from its handling of the economy, the textbook story in Limpopo and the Richard Mdluli sagas.

Some said the painting was insulting, while some said it tested SA’s democracy and Constitution. The Brett Murray creation (undoubtedly his most controversial and famous by far) has also been dubbed an attack on African morality and on black culture. And others looked at it “from a racialised and colonial perspective” and concluded that it uses “an insensitive and cruel colonial construct” to critique the president’s leadership – basically saying the portrait was racist.

But it all culminated into a face-off between the ANC and the City Press newspaper, following the latter’s refusal to remove the picture of The Spear from its website. Communist Party leader Blade Nzimande has called for a boycott of City Press newspaper as retribution for its refusal, and the ANC asked South Africans not to advertise in the newspaper. The calls became the focal points with the National Press Club (NPC) speaking out against the calls for boycott, and SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) also raising alarm at the call. Then it became a media freedom issue and government’s attacks on media.

And what happened to that debate and discussion about race and African and/or black culture; about freedom of expression vs. dignity and insults; AND the implications of the painting on SA’s democracy and Constitution? Uhmmm...benched till further notice, maybe; or until another Spear of a different kind appears later (in our lifetime hopefully) prompting us to revisit the debate again?

What do you think? Are we ever going to get over the racial debate if we almost always raise accusations and quickly move on and never fully discuss it? Why do we just put it on ice and thaw it whenever we feel like, and quickly re-freeze it again at our convenience? Is this not likely to just further polarise views?

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The ET trial accused finally named – was it right or wrong to name him?

The Eugene Terreblanche murder case moved closer to an end last week when judgement was handed down to the accused. Chris Mahlangu was found guilty of murder, while his co-accused, who was a minor at the time of the crime, was found guilty of housebreaking with intent to steal. What caught the most attention, at least to us, in this matter was the decision to reveal the identity of the youth in the case. Prior to that, the youth’s trial had been held in camera as he was still a minor (15) at the time of the crime, and the decision to reveal his name came as he turned 18 years in April.

From what we understand, it was the court or the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) decision to name the youth, and the media followed suit. Regardless of the fact that he is not a minor anymore, the fact still remains that at the time of the crime he was considered a minor and thus, should still not be named. The question is, was it okay for the media to do so too? And whose fault was it: media’s or the court/NPA’s to name him in the first place? We welcome your views on Facebook and Twitter on this subject...

Child Protection Week underway

President Jacob Zuma launched Child Protection Week yesterday - (Sunday, May 28, 2012) in Kimberly. This is a national campaign for the protection of children and to promote the rights of children as articulated in the Children's Act.

Commenting on the launch of the Press Freedom Commission (PFC) report a few weeks ago William Bird, Director of Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), commended the report’s significant regard for children’s rights in the media. Surely that was a call for the media to treat cases involving children with the greatest of care.

Mr Bird said:

The press code put forward by the Press Freedom Commission is a huge step forward in ensuring greater protection for children in the media and at the same time encouraging media to hear children’s voices. It is also a crucial recognition of the value and importance of children in our society.

So, as the country witnesses Child Protection Week, have our media joined the cause and supporting the campaign? Have the media explained to the public fully what the campaign is all about and its significance? How would you like to see the media report on news that involve children now and in future – what are the problems you have identified and how would you like to see them rectified going forward? Should we see the media promise to do their part, through its coverage of children, in child protection?

Send us your comments on this issue on our Facebook and Twitter pages; we would really appreciate your input.