Media freedom is at stake

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CAPE TOWN – The plight of a black-owned media entity in a space previously dominated by the privileged elite is not an easy one.

The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith and his son Jaden, comes to mind. In what is arguably one of his greatest performances, Smith plays the character of an ambitious man trying to break into a corporate space dominated by the more privileged elite.

The plight of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings’ (SIH) special purpose vehicle Sekunjalo Investment Media (SIM), is very similar.

SIH dared to venture into space previously dominated by the privileged elite and well, there is a serious push-back against this black-owned entity.

The latest was in the form of a raid at the Sekunjalo offices, followed by a very reckless statement made by the Public Investment Corporation in response to questions in Parliament.

The SIH and SIM offices were inundated with questions from all media houses, including Business Report (BR) journalists.

The difference is some journalists were looking for the truth, while other journalists were looking for headlines, and other journalists were hoping to get damning information that would help their handlers bring Independent Media down. All this just to keep mainstream media in check?

Well, check this out: our journalists are in pursuit of the truth!

We research, we break news, we question the agendas of those within the government and captains of industry in our plight to report the truth.

We mostly get it right, and, yes, sometimes, we get it wrong. But we have no hidden agenda. That is the truth.

Doing that, we get threatened.

“You guys must be careful about what you report,” a very prominent minister’s spokesperson said to a BR journalist recently.

We will not name him – this is not the intention of this article. However, one thing that this spokesperson should get straight is: do not threaten journalists.

You are allowed to voice your opinion, but threatening a journalist is messing with press freedom and that is unconstitutional.

Fact is that the moment we touch a raw nerve, we get clapped from a dizzy height. Take note: We shall not be distracted, in fact, your critique empowers us to dig deeper to find the truth.

So, let’s dig deeper. These attacks on one media house are based on the perception seen in the movies “go for the head, and the empire will crumble”. We are not just a single entity, we are independent journalists, putting forward a narrative that bucks the trend. And that is the ethos of press freedom.

We asked several members of staff as well as some industry commentators to share their views on the impact of the consistent attacks on Indy, and how these attacks impact their jobs and media freedom.

The feedback was crystal clear: The attempt to bring down a media owner will negatively impact the media house’s operations, which impacts on press freedom. To think otherwise would be a fallacy.

Journalists cannot always guarantee the truth, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle. We shall continue our pursuit of the truth. We shall not be intimidated, nor distracted.

An international journalist who was once arrested for taking on the “powers that be” said the problem with journalism was two-pronged: “You have a hostile government that finds the media an irritation. You also have journalists who pander to the authorities and resort to unnecessary self-censorship.

“They pander because, in a weak economy with limited opportunities, some journalists use their positions in the media as a means to career advancement in other areas. They always seek to impress. Then there are those who are downright afraid to write good stories that speak truth to power.”

This battle is getting real. My fellow journalists try is all we need to do it’s up to us all to put the truth out there and we will not be pressured into looking the other way.

Wake up South Africa. Let’s take South Africa forward. Let’s align our efforts and be ambassadors for our one and only strategic asset: SA Inc. We are the shareholders.

This article first appeared in the Business Report Online