Sunday, July 02, 2006


Quite an interesting article. This lady is surely asking some probing questions.

Become more media savvy
30/06/2006 10:15 - (SA)
Lizette Rabe

It's not only a matter of being media literate, to be able to read between the lines, that enables us to understand any given news, whether in print, broadcast or new media.

It is also knowing about your rights as a citizen in terms of freedom of expression - and how it is or is not manipulated by those who think they have a right to decide what others may think and say.

Build your sixth media sense, in other words, by becoming more media literate to the extent of being media savvy.

What's this all about?

It's still about the SABC's censoring of the Mbeki profile. The latest fall-out is the alleged censoring of certain commentators. SABC journalists were asked not to use certain people as analysts because of their criticism of the government.

And it represents one of the unfortunate - and one too many - low points in our recent "free" media history.

It is a serious infringement on freedom of expression when apparatchiks decide on behalf of journalists who may or may not comment on events. The fact that it is happening at our public service broadcaster, makes it even more serious.

The reverse of this alleged censoring also needs attention: how does it reflect on those who are allowed to comment?

The flipside of this decision means that those who may be contacted are "cleared" by the head honchos.

How would these "approved" commentators feel about the situation they suddenly find themselves in? How does this impact on the credibility of those commentators and analysts?

This is yet another reason why media consumers should develop their sixth sense by reading between the lines.

We need media literacy campaigns so that news consumers can understand the undercurrents in what is already a whirlpool of information coming their way. Otherwise we're as good as in the dark, despite a well-developed media infrastructure available to the majority of South Africans.

Need the fifth estate?

No wonder blogging - citizen-journalism - is referred to as the fifth estate: to watch the so-called fourth estate.

But where will it end? A sixth estate, to watch the fifth estate?


The Fourth Estate, the so-called watchdog, must protect its independence, and must do so fiercely.

Hopefully all journalists will protest against the infringement of their colleagues' independence at the SABC. And a call for all analysts and commentators to refrain from co-operating until this matter has been cleared, should also be supported.

As the South African National Editors' Forum's slogan with respect to media freedom goes: what you can't see, can hurt you.

This chapter in the history of our "free" media illustrates that point once again. Practise your sixth sense, and read between the lines to know that which you cannot see, can hurt - and hurt you badly.

# Lizette Rabe is head of the postgraduate Department of Journalism at the University of Stellenbosch, a Sanef council member and Sanef-convenor for the Western Cape. And she's addicted to news.

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