Media becoming own executioner

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Thapelo Ndlovu

Media has been carrying reports that the anchor and producer of GabzFM’s Breakfast with Reg, Reginald Richardson and Keikantse Shumba respectively were suspended from work following the airing of a leaked audio clip purportedly of the Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi in his party’s recruitment escapade.
While the station has not made an official statement yet, the trend in this country, of persecuting journalists for doing their job has become too frequent to be ignored. This is bothersome especially that the perpetrators are the employers, supposedly the custodians of the profession.  In fear of annoying the ruling party, which in one newspaper report, admitted to have written the station in question a letter of complaint, the media owners have resorted to throwing their journalists under a speeding bus. The media has become its own assassin. It is not for the first time that GabzFM found itself in the clasp of political pressure and this is partly because they are generally doing a good job in making the powers that be account for their shortcomings. This, the station must be commended for, but on the flip side, the station must face outright public disapproval if and when it fails its own standards.
This year we saw the same thing at Yarona FM where a former Editor was suspended and subsequently fired; His successor was also put under the same treatment in the wake of the controversial artwork which resembled the image of the President of the state. The latter journalist is reportedly back at work.
This behaviour, if unchecked and unadulterated could cause a downward spiral of our much cherished freedom of the press, expression and ultimately a serious dent in our democracy. Public participation nourishes any democracy and ultimately breeds peace and tolerance. It must never be allowed to be threatened by narrow political greed. There must never be a time where the citizens of this country feel defenseless and helpless against the might of the state, let alone the ruling party, as it appears to be the case at the moment.
GabzFM’s morning show has always been a headache to both BDP and Government, as far back as the time of the legendary duo of Solo B and the late Lettie Gaelesiwe. Some of the recent altercations with the ruling party were a result of the 2014 national elections debates that the party boycotted. It was around the same time that another leaked audio clip surfaced and once again carried the voice of the Vice President boasting of targeting some media houses, including GabzFM for victimisation.
After the general elections, at the height of its recruitment drive, another leak, this time of its secretary general was splashed all over social media and again aired at radios, including GabzFM. The common denominator in all these recordings was that none of them had its authenticity questioned, which in some way validated the editorial decisions involved.
Radio station owners and management need to be advised that as much as they account to the government licensing agency, they also owe the public some decency.
While the public broadcaster, both radio and television, is evidently captured by the ruling party and community broadcasting outlawed, expectations were that the private commercial media, including radio, would lessen the gravity of such an anomaly.
*Executive Director
Community Media Foundation (COMEF)