Tag Archives: Business Day

Apartheid denial, the reader and rage


Former ambassador to Argentina and Business Day columnist Tony Leon said in a radio interview with Eusebius McKaiser yesterday that he agreed with the statement: Corruption was rife under apartheid. However, that is not what he said in his column, the subject of the radio interview.

In the column, Leon argued that the National Party did not tolerate corruption and, to the extent it did, those caught were not shielded from punishment by their political party affiliation. He also said that corruption and the lack of consequence for it came in the wake of democracy in 1994.

Tell me, how can corruption be rife yet not tolerated in a system that doesn’t let perpetrators get away? There’s a leak in the logic here only explainable by saying that the National Party, to a large extent, turned a massive blind eye to corruption, which would undermine the premise of Leon’s argument. Hold up his view that the present-day sickening cycle of corruption with no consequences came in the wake of 1994 against his agreeing that corruption was rife under apartheid and you’ll realise that precious little of what he’s said makes sense.

Here is Leon in his own words, emphasis my own:

The NP promoted and prosecuted a political system which oppressed and disfigured this country, and its security apparatus did far worse. But it was not so forgiving of its own members who looted public office for personal ends. And to the extent that it turned a blind eye, it did not interfere when the departments of justice and correctional services indicted and processed its members, some of them very prominent indeed.

Like the entire column, the statement is an elegant cascade of questionable elisions and untruths couched in truths and built on a false premise that caused those who rightly read with the context of Leon’s time in public office to question his motivation for writing it.

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Commercial news media, like the SABC, also answer to his master’s voice

This post originally appeared on Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader group blog.

Everyone’s favourite whipping boy, the SABC, has done it again. Unspoken commands from the outside have barged in and, at the last minute, dictated an editorial policy. Either both the Metro FM show’s producer and host neglected to acquaint themselves with the said policy, or the policy did not exist until five minutes before the show was to go on air. In any case, unlike his 16th century forebear, this whipping boy is being publicly flayed for his own misdeed, not the prince’s. Yet strangely the prince, commercial news media, appears the most pious throughout the debacle, when he, too, commits an as egregious an offence.

On Wednesday City Press editor Ferial Haffajee tweeted: “Are the news values of public broadcasting different to commercial news values? If so, how?”

The short answer is no. There should be little difference. Values in public and commercial news should flow from the mission underlying why news is gathered and disseminated in the first place, which is to provide citizens with timely and accurate information to allow them to make informed decisions on the issues of the day. The more intricate and precise answer is that, as with the SABC, voices from the outside also intrude into commercial news rooms and affect decisions on the quality and nature of information provided to the public. Often the decisions swayed by these outside voices results in a compromise of commercial news values. Continue reading

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Paywalls are a double-edged sword to media freedom

I took peevish (and admittedly childish) pleasure from registering my name on the Business Day Live website as ‘Annoyed by the Registration Process’, so that when my confirmation e-mail arrived it read “Dear Annoyed by the Registration Process, welcome to BD Live.”

I felt I had pulled one over on the man. Sure, I was miffed that the website lists as required information just to read articles: my name and surname, gender, age, my position, responsibility, and industry. Publisher BDFM (Pty) Ltd would have never had access to this information had I popped down to the shops and forked over my R12 for the print edition. This opportunistic information harvesting was no doubt driven by commercial considerations—perhaps to provide advertisers with a better view of the demographics of BD Live’s readership? Continue reading

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