Hekwagterskap tydens die Waarheids-en-versoeningskommissie se sitting oor chemiese en biologiese oorlogvoering soos gereflekteer in drie Kaapstadse dagblaaie

Ferreira, Jannie (2000-04)

Tesis (MPhil) -- Universiteit van Stellenbosch, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: When rumours started circulating in 1998 that former president Nelson Mandela and Mrs Graca Machel were about to get married, Mandela's spokesman at the time, Parks Mankahlana, vehemently denied them. Mankahlana was the gatekeeper who decided what information about Mandela' s impending marriage would be made available to the rest of the world. The entire incident became somewhat of an embarrassment for Mandela's office, resulting in the former president trying hard to cover for Mankahlana at subsequent media conferences. In the end it became a case of trying to unravel who had lied to whom, who had given whom instructions to say what, and who had been in the know and at what stage, etc. A similar incident ensued following an assassination attempt on former American president Ronald Reagan in 1981. Initially his media office kept the gates firmly shut by alleging he had been only slightly injured. Later it emerged he'd been much more seriously injured than the White House had initially intimated. Between 1996 and 1998 South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigated human rights violations since 1960. The South African and foreign media were faced with the challenge of presenting witness accounts of the numerous attrocities in a palatable form. Despite these attempts media managers at Cape Town's two English-language dailies in particular detected a measure of reader resistance to "bad news" which made readers feel" powerless", and they consequently had to adopt a careful approach. The TRC could not be ignored, but the often gruesome details which came to light could not willy nilly be stuffed down readers' throats. Gatekeeping had to be exercised with the greatest circumspection and the news filters prudently regulated. This study attempts to illustrate the concept of gatekeeping by analysing the coverage the three Cape Town dailies, the Cape Argus, Cape Times and Die Burger, gave the most sensational sessions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In June and July 1998 about 10 men, each of them doctors or generals, gave evidence about their involvement in the stockpiling of chemical and biological weapons for South Africa's arsenal. Reporters were confronted with a major challenge to comply with the journalistic rigours set by this session. This study concentrates on reports of the different version of events given by four prominent witnesses, Dr Wouter Basson, former project leader of South Africa's chemical and biological weapons programme, his commanding officer and former surgeon general Lieutenant General Niel Knobel, General Lothar Neethling, former head of the police's forensic laboratory, and Dr Jan Lourens, biomedical engineer and the first witness to take the stand. To illustrate the phenomenon of gatekeeping interviews were held with nine journalists at the three newspapers to determine their views and perceptions, and the effect of these on the phenomenon of gatekeeping. Aspiring media managers, media managers, reporters and anyone performing a gatekeeping role may find the findings of this study useful.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Toe gerugte in 1998 die rondte begin doen het dat oudpres. Nelson Mandela en mev. Graca Machel trouplanne het, het Mandela se woordvoerder, Parks Mankahlana, dit heftig ontken. Mankahlana was die hekwagter wat besluit het watter inligting oor Mandela se trouplanne aan die wereld deurgelaat word. Die hele episode het op 'n halwe verleentheid vir die president se kantoor uitgeloop met Mandela wat op daaropvolgende mediakonferensies verwoed probeer skerm het vir Mankahlana en dit 'n geval geword het van wie het gelieg en wie het vir wie opdrag gegee om sus of so te se en wie het wat in watter stadium geweet, ens. 'n Soortgelyke episode het hom afgespeel met 'n sluipmoordaanval op pres. Ronald Reagan van Amerika in 1981. Aanvanklik het sy mediakantoor ook die hekke redelik styftoe gehou deur te beweer hy is net lig beseer. Later het dit geblyk hy was veel ern stiger beseer as wat die Wit Huis aanvanklik bereid was om te erken. Suid-Afrika se Waarheids-en-versoeningskommissie het tussen 1996 en 1998 kragtens wet menseregteskendings sedert 1960 ondersoek. Die Suid-Afrikaanse en buitelandse media het 'n stewige uitdaging op hande gehad om talle gruwels uit die monde van getuies in verteerbare dosisse die wereld in te stuur. 'n Mate van lesersweerstand vir "slegte nuus" wat lesers "magteloos" laat voel het, is nietemin deur mediabestuurders by veral Kaapstad se twee Engelstalige dagblaaie bespeur en 'n versigtige aanslag moes gevolg word. Die WVK kon nie geignoreer word nie, maar die dikwels bloederige besonderhede wat daar aan die lig gekom het, kon nie blindelings in lesers se keel gate afgedruk word nie. Hekwagterskap moes met groot omsigtigheid gepleeg word. Die nuusfilters moes delikaat reguleer word. In hierdie studie word gepoog om hekwagterskap te illustreer by wyse van 'n ontleding van die dekking wat die drie dagblaaie in Kaapstad, die Cape Argus, Cape Times en Die Burger, verleen het aan een van die Waarheids-enversoeningskommissie se opspraakwekkendste sittings. In Junie en Julie 1998 het sowat tien mans, op een na almal dokters, doktore of generaals, getuig oor hul betrokkenheid by die opbou van Suid-Afrika se chemiese en biologiese wapenarsenaal. Verslaggewers het voor 'n groot uitdaging te staan gekom om by te bly met die joernalistieke eise wat tydens hierdie sitting gestel is. In hierdie studie word gekonsentreer op beriggewing oor vier prominente getuies se weergawes, naamlik dr. Wouter Basson, gewese projekleier van Suid-Afrika se chemiese en biologiese wapenprogram, sy bevelvoerder, It.-genl. Niel Knobel, voormalige geneesheer-generaal, genl. Lothar Neethling, oud-hoofvan die polisie se forensiese laboratorium, en dr. Jan Lourens, biomediese ingenieur en die eerste een wat sy plek in die getuiestoel ingeneem het. Gesprekke is gevoer met nege joernaliste by die drie koerante ten einde hul beskouings en persepsies te peil ter illustrasie van hekwagterskap en hoe dit hekwagterskap beinvloed het. Aspirant-mediabestuurders, sowel as mediabestuurders, verslaggewers - almal wat hekwagtersrolle vertolk - sal hierdie studie straks leersaam vind ter verfyning van hul kundigheid.

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