Media Tuesday Bulletin: New editor for TNA; ICT Indaba saga continues; And, SA media & women issues

Posted: 7 August 2012 | News - Newsletter | Categories: Gender, Democracy and Governance, HIV and AIDS, Media Freedom and Performance

And here’s what’s on offer this Media Tuesday:

  • New editor for The New Age
  • Is the media’s probe of the ICT Indaba saga asking the right questions?
  • Does anyone, especially the media, give a ‘hoot’ about women?

Will new broom sweep The New Age clean?

The New Age newspaper announced last week that the current editor-in-chief of Independent Newspapers in Gauteng, Moegsien Williams, has been appointed editor of The New Age. The announcement came after Ryland Fisher, the current editor at the Guptas-owned title, tendered his resignation. The paper then roped in Williams to take over the reigns when Fisher leaves the Midrand-based newspaper at the end of August.

Williams will be The New Age’s fourth editor since the paper’s inception two years ago. Vuyo Mvoko was its first editor, but he quit before its launch. In came Henry Jeffreys in 2010, but left a few months later. Then Fisher took over as acting editor.

Four editors in two years, huh? On the bright side though, the newspaper is still running and not closing down. But editors are not normally changed that frequently, are they? Is this a bad sign that all is not well in TNA stable? Are they trying to emulate the SABC? What do you think may be going on in The New Age? Or are we maybe reading too much into nothing but just a normal and procedural change of captain to steer the ship? And what do you think will come about with the change of editors in TNA; should we expect to see more of the same or should we expect something new? Facebook and Tweet us your views and comments...

Media and the ICT Indaba millions: is the focus on the right issue(s)?

South Africa held the inaugural Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Indaba in Cape Town from 4 – 7 June earlier this year. Telecommunications companies reportedly made contributions towards the hosting of the Indaba, pledging millions of Rands in the process. But, it was when the companies demanded answers regarding where the contribution fees went to, that the real story began!

Following  an exposé by the Sunday Times newspaper detailing how businessman Phosane Mngqibisa (romantically-linked to Minister of Communications Dina Pule) withdrew large sums of money soon after it was deposited into Bouwer's FNB bank account, the Sunday Times reported that“Communications Minister Dina Pule, a man said to be her boyfriend and former Generations actress Carol Bouwer face a forensic probe into how R36-million in "sponsorship fees" for last month's ICT Indaba was spent”.

The story is currently still a hotly-debated one and the media is also not letting it go that easily. The latest is that the Auditor-General Terence Nombembe has cleared Pule of any wrongdoing around the Indaba, after Pule asked him to investigate. There are still questions that remain unanswered though. The Democratic Alliance MP and shadow communications minister Marian Shinn reportedly believes Pule must still answer questions about the alleged conflict of interest over Mngqibisa’s involvement in the indaba and wants the public protector to investigate.

The minister is actually in more trouble than just the ICT Indaba money and expenses. Her department, the Department of Communications (DOC), is reported to have suffered monetary losses of more than R2 million, as at 31 March. The Mail and Guardian newspaper has also reported of accusations of nepotism against the minister by her staff, courtesy of a dossier leaked to the newspaper.

But back to the ICT Indaba issue: a press statement by the DoC hailing the success of the conference reads:

... the event attracted 1 500 delegates, among them the world's leading ICT experts, more (than) 20 ministers and deputy ministers from across Africa, and 89 international media organisations.

That sounds like the conference was attended largely, if not only, by business people and those who can easily pay their way. So how do you justify spending so much money for an event like this? Is this not one of the questions the media should be focusing on? Is too much media attention being afforded to the involvement of the minister’s romantic link, resulting in pressing questions not being answered and forcing other real issues to take the backseat?

The Indaba is said to have cost the DoC up to R102m to host, which is a hell of a lot of money! Can’t we use such an amount of money for something else? Some, like my broadband website editor, Rudolph Muller, played around with the figure and indicated some other things the money could have been spent on. Examples include covering the whole Johannesburg metropolitan area with a Wi-Fi network, or providing 1,000 schools with the necessary computer equipment for a 20 PC computer laboratory. We would like other suggestions from you on how you think the money should have been spent on. Feel free to tell us how you’d spend R102m by sending us your comments and suggestion on Facebook and Twitter...

Does SA media ignore international health stories, AND women’s issues?

News from our neighbours Namibia is that a court in that country has ruled that three HIV-positive women were coerced into being sterilised by the Namibian government. The court ruled that the government sterilised the women without obtaining proper consent from them, forcing them to sign papers they did not understand while they suffered through labour pains.

The three reportedly signed release forms that allowed doctors to sterilise them without realising what they had agreed to at the time. The forms were all signed when the women were in labour. Their court case began in 2010 and was brought before the court by a Namibian legal assistance centre.

The court rejected the claim that the women were targeted because of their HIV-positive status. The women were made to sign forms of consent to give birth by caesarean in order to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their babies, hence the suspicion that the women’s HIV status may have made them the target for forced sterilisation procedures in order to prevent them from having any more children which they could potentially infect with the virus. The sterilisations were carried out at the same time as the caesarean.

The case has caught the attntion of health rights campaigners around the world and various international media picked up on it. Allegations of forced sterilisations have started to be reeported in other African countries, South Africa included. According to the Guardian, “In Africa – especially Kenya, Swaziland and South Africa – allegations have recently begun to emerge of state hospitals practising sterilisation of HIV-positive mothers.”

But, has the local (SA) media picked up on this important case and story? Well, the Sowetan newspaper has, but what about others? Having gone through a couple of SA titles over the past few days, it’s safe to say that the story did not really make it into SA media. Should we not be seeing more news and debates around issues such as this, especially with Women’s Month upon us? Speaking of Women’s Month, give us your highlights of the best and worst reporting on women in the media. Send your comments to our Facebook and Twitter platforms...