Racism, criticism or, inept reporting? : racism in the media, the relationship between the state and the press, and the standard of journalism in South Africa

Martindale, Linda Shirley (2002-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The furor around racism in the media was brought to the surface in 1999 when the Black Lawyers Association and the Association of Black Accountants of South Africa appealed to the South African Human Rights Commission to investigate the South African media. This request was based on the presumption that the South African media was rife with racism and urgently required attention. The subsequent enquiry was the source of much controversy and accusation. Almost three years since the enquiries inception, the issue of racism in the South African media has not disappeared despite decreasing media coverage in recent months. When the South African Human Rights Commission launched the enquiry into racism, prominent media leaders including key editors and newspaper representatives were summoned to appear before the controversial Commission. Some media leaders felt the Commission was a direct attack on the freedom of the Press. Others felt the enquiry was long overdue or slammed it as an all-time flop. Furthermore, pure and simple criticism of the government is still perceived as racism when it is the Press fulfilling its role as the 'watchdog of democracy' . Various Press theories, for example Developmental or Libertarian, impact on the perceived role of the Press in a democratic nation. The standard of journalism in a country can also impact on the way in which the press is perceived. For example, there are times when inept reporting is misunderstood as racist reporting. This assignment is a broad overview of the enquiry into racism in the media and the concerns around this issue as well as the response to it. It takes a closer look at the role of the media and the relationship between the media and the state. In particular, it focuses on how criticism of the government can be misread as racism, as well as investigating how the standard of journalism impacts on the way in which the media serve the public. The South African National Editors Forum launched a skills audit in 2002 and the results were surprisingly negative. The general standard of journalism in South Africa was assessed as "low". This assignment looks at the findings of the audit in the light of the above questions surrounding the standard of journalism as it pertains to reporting on race and accuracy, understanding and objectivity. The last section of the assignment takes a brief look at several examples of how to report on race in South Africa and what to be aware of when considering sensitivity to race issues. The questions as to whether it is racism, healthy criticism misconstrued as racism, or simply inept reporting, are explored. Although an expansive topic by nature, this paper provides an overview of the key issues pertaining to media ethics as it pertains to racism in the South African media.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die skandaaloor rasisme in die media was te vore gebring in 1999 toe die Black Lawyers' Association en die Association of Black Accountants die Suid Afrikaanse Menslike Regtes Kommissie gevra het om die Suid Afrikaanse media te ondersoek. Die versoek was gebaseer op die gedagte dat die Suid Afrikaanse media rasisties is en dringend aandag nodig het. Die ondersoek was baie kontroverseel en het na baie beskuldiging gelei. Omtrent drie jaar nadat die ondersoek begin het, is die kwessie van rasisme in die Suid Afrikaanse media nog lewendig alhoewel daar minder daaroor geskryf is in die land se publikasies. Toe die Suid Afrikaanse Menslike Regtes Kommissie die ondersoek op rasisme begin het, is belangrike media leiers - redakteurs en koerant verteenwoordiges - voor die Kommissie geroep. Sommige van die media leiers het gevoel dat die kommissie 'n direkte aanval op Vryheid van die Pers was; ander het gevoel dat die Ondersoek belangrik was en nog ander dit as 'n mislukking bestempel het. Eenvoudige kritiek van die regering deur die Pers is ook as rasisme gesien alhoewel hulle die rol van 'bewaarder van demokrasie' vervul. Daar is verskeie Pers teories, byvoorbeeld "Developmental" of "Libertarian" wat die persepsie van die rol van die pers beindruk het. Die standaard van joernalistiek in 'n land bepaal deur hoe die Pers gesien is. Byvoorbeeld, somtyds is slegte verslaggewering as rasisties bestempel. Hierdie opdrag is 'n wye oorsig van die ondersoek op rasisme in die media, die bekommernis oor die kwessie en die reaksie daaroor. Dit kyk nader na die rol van die media en die verhouding tussen die media en die staat. Dit fokus op hoe kritiek van die regering as rasisme misgelees kan word en gee ondersoek aan hoe die standard van journalistiek na beskuldiging van rasisme kan lei. Die "South African National Editors' Forum" het 'n Vaardighede oudit in 2002 opgedoen en die uitslae was negatief. Die standaard van joernalisme in Suid Afrika was as "laag" assesseer. Hierdie opdrag kyk na die oudit se vindings in die lig van die bogenoemde vrae oor die standard van joernalistiek: verslaggewing oor rase en akuraatheid, en objectiviteit. Die laaste deel van die opdrag kyk na verskeie voorbeelde van hoe om oor rase verslag te gee en waaroor te dink as jy sensitief teenoor rase kwessies wil wees. Die volgende vrae is na gekyk: Is dit rasisme; gesonde kritiek wat as rasisme bestempel word, of eenvoudig, slegte verslaggewing? Hierdie opdrag gee 'n wye oorsig oor die belangrike kwessies van media etiek in verhouding met rasisme in die Suid Afrikaanse media.

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