Inflammatory actions, inflammatory tweets

For immediate release

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) strongly condemns recent attacks on media by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

MMA welcomes and endorses the statement by the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) on the attack of Netwerk24 photographer, Adriaan de Kock, by EFF’s Floyd Shivambu. Shivambu’s apology, while welcomed, comes on the back of recent statements on Twitter made by EFF’s CIC, Julius Malema “the changes at SABC are worrisome, someone is busy creating @eNCA lite at the SABC. We have to find a way of stopping whiteness from taking over the only platform of black people before it is too late. @eNCA is the platform that perpetuate white supremacy and there’s no doubt”.

While of course the EFF are encouraged to critique the media, unsubstantiated and inflammatory allegations by the leader of one of the opposition parties is deeply concerning. In this regard, we further note and draw attention to the response by eNCA Editor in Chief, Mapi Mhlangu. In particular we highlight the following:

“Mr Malema’s tweets have consequences, not least because he is the leader of a political party with substantial representation and support across South Africa. The first of these consequences have been threats to individual journalists in the wake of his online messages. At any other time in our country’s history this would have required a response from the editorial team, not least because it is a question of ensuring the safety of journalists in a democratic society”.

While swiftly issued, the apology appears to be undermined by Julius Malema’s subsequent exchange with Editor, Ferial Haffajee, as seen below.

It is difficult to understand how “you are sick now” either advances or addresses a serious issue raised by Ferial Haffajee, or is indeed an appropriate response by the head of a party whose deputy had assaulted a journalist just a few hours before.

It is critical to note that attacks by politicians on journalists, whether physical or verbal, not only undermines media freedom, but also violates the oath that each member of parliament has taken when assuming office.

With the expanding power of social media and as we approach elections in an increasingly volatile political environment, we call on all political parties to not only condemn such actions, but also to proactively commit to adhering to dialogue and speech that seeks to undermine and discourage violence and escalation of tensions.

As MMA, we will be working with our partners over the coming period to facilitate a dialogue between political parties and our media.

For more information, please contact:

William Bird (MMA Director)

williamb@mma.org.za / +27828871370

or

Thandi Smith (MMA Head of Policy)

thandis@mma.org.za / +27734707306