Continuing the conversation with Dr Fikeni, he beckons the media to go into introspection in terms of how it reports on certain stories.
In the wake of the African National Congress’ (ANC) deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte’s verbal lashing against eNCA’s senior journalist Samkele Maseko during a press briefing at Luthuli House on Tuesday, 2 April 2019, Dr Somadoda Fikeni has condemned Duarte’s reaction but urged the media to go into introspection.
“Media ought to go into introspection for some of its biases. For example, when the Ace Magashule claims come, they said ‘ja, now we have the silver bullet of corruption allegations’, [but] when Patricia de Lille says, ‘we’ve found another VBS case within the DA area’, the media says ‘is this not opportunistic? Why now?’.”
On the Duarte versus Maseko case, Fikeni expressed that the way Duarte addressed Maseko, and the way the ANC further addressed the incident might encourage self-censorship from some journalists and media houses.
“It will obviously lead to self-censorship by some, because they know there’s going to be a reaction … because some of the small parties do have the potential threat of being physical in their violent rhetoric. Others are threatened because [the parties] do have the resources to go to court, so in the long-run it might lead to the self-censorship of the media.”
However, he added that if the media remains consistent in the way it reports news and hold everybody strictly accountable, it will be exalted from cases such as the Duarte versus Maseko one. Fikeni noted that the media tends to be more active when corruption allegations are fashioned against public figures, noting that this is especially true for the ANC and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). He observed that when the Democratic Alliance (DA) is accused of similar allegations, the news is not met with the same intensity and appetite by the media.
“There is also a racial dimension. when you have Guptas or some black folks who are alleged to be involved in corruption, we are told what their children are wearing, which schools they’re going to, what cars are they driving. But, when Watson is mentioned, there seems to be a blanket restraint not to embarrass him or expose the lifestyle.
“When the son of Kaizer Motaung was alleged to have been involved in the Mbombela corruption, we saw his face on front pages of newspapers, but when the big four construction companies were involved, we never even saw logos of those companies or the faces of the people who were involved,” he said.
He noted that there is an unspoken notion that if you are white, and were caught looting, you were deserving, and it was the fruits of your hard work. However, if you are black, your most intimate details ought to be exposed.