Editorial: Journalism as urgent as ever

Journalism’s immune system has long been compromised. From declining advertising revenue to the rise of disinformation campaigns and thoughtless social media companies, the industry has borne the brunt of multiple blows over the years. 

These have left us staggering. 

Now we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic with no end in sight. For many publications, this has been the final pressure that forced printing presses to shut down and servers to power off. Fewer journalists are asking difficult questions of policymakers and holding those in power to account. 

At the same time, we need to document an ever-more complicated world in which the stakes are high. Besides a pandemic, China is moving to cement its position in Hong Kong while everyone else is distracted by the economic and social effects of Covid-19. And everyone is pushing back decisive action to reduce global warming and the deadly effects of the climate crisis, guaranteeing a worse future. 

In the United States, media are documenting how that country reckons with its “original sin” of being built on the backs of enslaved people, on stolen land. The white supremacists who used that country’s broken electoral system to seize power seem hellbent on taking advantage of the pandemic  to ensure their control continues. Their foot soldiers are taking the signal from the top and using force against anyone who disagrees. Journalists are not being spared. In Minneapolis, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and two members of his producing team were arrested for doing their jobs. Their arrests, which were captured in a live broadcast, came despite the police officers knowing they were members of the media. 


“Put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way, so just let us know,” Jimenez, who is black and Latino, is heard telling officers before he is handcuffed. “Wherever you want us, we will go. We’re just getting out of the way.” 

As our American colleagues grapple with treatment that is so often reserved for “shithole countries” in the developing world, and as they discover the lengths their government will go to stop them from doing their jobs, we stand in solidarity. 

In South Africa, we are used to the uneasy relationship between media and state. Our press now enjoys far more rights than most do elsewhere in the world. It is how we continue to document the brutality this government metes out — the unanswered assault and killing of black people for the crime of existing. 

This country’s history is awash in blood. At times, the injustice was flagrant. Other equally ugly parts stayed hidden and were brought to light by the dogged refusal of people, and journalists, to accept injustice. 

We too must challenge the status quo. It destroys too many people.

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

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing serious graft allegations

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members

The ANC is selling false hope, but no one’s buying

The disciplinary paralysis in the ANC makes dealing with graft an ambitious exercise in futility

Cosatu proposes interventions to tackle Covid-19 procurement graft

In light of irregular spending on Covid-19 procurement, Cosatu recommends that politically connected people be barred from doing business with the state

Health workers afraid of passing Covid to family

While nurses bear the brunt of the most psychologically affected of health workers, most are concerned about access to protective supplies

Covid-19 pandemic highlights challenges of online teaching and learning

The obvious hurdle is how to deal with economic inequalities among students, while other difficulties are communication without the physical aspects and how to build trust.
Advertising

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday