Editorial: Good press, here’s a bone

The media quarantine at the ANC policy conference was highly successful in achieving its apparent aims.

Corralled behind a guarded fence, the press enthusiastically engaged with any and all politicians who graciously took the time to pop past the barricade. And in the absence of much other news, they largely just reported the carefully crafted messages fed to them. So bereft of activity was this gilded cage that members of the media even interviewed each other to generate content.

Heaven forbid you should have permission to attend an event elsewhere. A highly-strung security official would insist that accreditation tags – coloured bright red for media – were prominently displayed before counting and then escorting the group to the venue in question. In any given crowded area, media were asked to form a line.

Word from within the press prison was that this was because the ruling party could not afford an errant journalist seeing just how heated deliberations in the policy commissions had become.

The location of the conference, in the south of Johannesburg, also helped the party’s aims. In Mangaung, journalists and politicians would inevitably mingle in the same venues after hours, but this was this was certainly not the case in the sprawling city, especially with no obvious place nearby the Nasrec expo centre to convene.

The strategy was effective. As President Jacob Zuma noted in his closing address, the media had been well-behaved. He thanked the press for coming out in their numbers as a live camera feed cut to the hordes of reporters gathered in front of the stage. All the while, ANC delegates chuckled at the not-so-subtle swipes taken at the media.

The ANC may argue that its attempts to control the movements of media at this event were as a result of mischievous reporting. Some honest introspection would probably reveal that the real problems stem from within the party and not from the reporting on it.

Zuma noted that 1 600 media representatives had attended the event. It is worth wondering, however – given the handling of the press this past week – if an ANC event will ever attract such numbers again.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Mozambican authorities must stop the attack on media freedom

When journalists stop telling the truth about what’s going on in their country, when they stop exposing wrongdoing and corruption allegations, everyone suffers

‘Killing the chicken to scare the monkey’: what Jimmy Lai’s arrest means for Hong Kong’s independent media

Although self-censorship has long been a concern, Hong Kong has traditionally enjoyed a vibrant free press

The media is dead, long live the king

The state of King Mswati’s health is just one of many contentious issues that cannot be reported on in eSwatini

After a 55-year struggle, a major victory for press freedom in Sierra Leone

A law used to harass and intimidate journalists has been repealed

Zimbabwean journalist ‘fears for his life’ after being singled out by Zanu-PF

Hopewell Chin’ono recently published a series of Facebook posts that outline alleged connections between President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son and a company that was awarded tender to supply equipment to prevent the spread of Covid-19

Viral authoritarianism during the Covid-19 pandemic

Authoritarian leaders have often used natural disasters to tighten their grasp on power. We are seeing the same happen during the coronavirus crisis, in dictatorships and democracies alike

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday