June 27, 2019
The Thabo Mbeki Foundation (TMF) welcomes the Inquiry into Media Ethics initiated by the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), which will be chaired by retired Judge Kathleen Satchwell.
As an integral part of a society’s cultural institutions which shape the nation’s image of itself, ideas and their expression, a reflection on the media and how it goes about discharging its stated objectives and responsibilities is an undertaking of vital national importance.
The first of its kind in our history and more specifically in post-apartheid South Africa, the inquiry provides a rare opportunity openly to discuss media ethics in the broad context of:
(i) the production and dissemination of information, views and perspectives which promote an informed, active and critical citizenry which understands its rights, responsibilities and obligations, how the country and the world work as well as the capacity of the media to fulfil this task;
(ii) relatedly, the role of the media in promoting a culture of reflection and reasoned public discourse without which society cannot separate the grain from the chuff;
(iii) the promotion of the South Africa visualized in the Constitution of the Republic, especially as it relates to the promotion of non-racialism and non-sexism, the advancement of accountability by public and private actors, recognition of the injustices of the past and the improvement of the quality of life of all citizens; and,
(iv) a comprehensive assessment of the transformation of the media with respect to ownership patterns, the concentration of ownership in large commercial titles and commercial community media, staff and management demographic profiles, the distribution of advertising revenue across media platforms and diversity of opinion in the industry and individual media platforms;
Our country and the media profession urgently require an examination of these and other questions both in the media’s and the national interest.
We trust that media practitioners and non-practitioners alike will approach the task placed before the Inquiry with the requisite honesty and constructive attitude required to advance the profession and the country; avoiding ambiguities and closure of ranks on the one hand, and hyperboles and counter-productive polemics on the other.
We would like to congratulate the leadership of SANEF for its openness, willingness and readiness to confront the issues facing the profession and the country’s information and cultural needs as well as its thinking processes.
Issued by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.