While South Africa has gained freedom and liberation since the abolishment of the apartheid regime, many forms of oppression still linger in society today. That is according to acclaimed activist and author of, The New Apartheid, Dr Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh.
He delivered the virtual 11th Annual Percy Qoboza Memorial Lecture today. The lecture is held annually to commemorate Black Wednesday.
Black Wednesday is the day the apartheid government banned black consciousness organisations, publications, and people critical of the state, including Percy Qoboza. At the time, he was editor of the World and Weekend World newspapers.
The lecture forms part of a broader commemoration of Black Wednesday. The theme this year is; The role of the media in the digital age. How far will it go in serving as the voice of the dispossessed and as a channel of change and real democracy?
Today we are commemorating Media Freedom Day also known as Black Wednesday. It is an important day to reflect on the current challenges that the media and community movements in South Africa face in relation to censorship. #OngaziMakazi #MediaFreedomDay #GovernmentCensorship pic.twitter.com/foucEmH0cx
— Right2Know (@r2kcampaign) October 19, 2021
Dr. Mpofu-Walsh says apartheid still clouds South Africans.
“Not to celebrate changes prematurely, and to recognise persistent injustices around that. Though much has changed since 1977, many of the forms of oppression that were designed have lingered. It’s no use telling us that we have the vote when all around us, you see destitution, racialised poverty, gender inequality, and various legacies of apartheid. Until we are aggressive in tackling injustices, they will continue to wreak havoc on the dreams and hopes that we built through the mind, voices, and thoughts of the brave journalists that suffered oppression on this day 44 years ago.”
Ownership of the media
University of Johannesburg’s Strategic Communication Department’s Professor Mandla Radebe says the issue of mass-owned white media needs to be addressed. He has lamented the lack of enough black editors leading newsrooms.
“Any attempt that seeks to analyse a contentful SA media will be incomplete without unravelling transformation. The rationale behind transformation seeks to address the racial imbalance as a result of apartheid which was entrenched by white minority control and therefore extended to the media. We must deal with the concentrated ownership and lack of diversity, 40% black ownership across the value chain is something we need to address.”
Interests of the dispossessed
GE for News at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Phathiswa Magopeni says mainstream media is failing the dispossessed.
“If you look at the purpose and pursuit as the media, particularly news media, it is centered on promoting democratic principles which are transparency, accountability and the freedom of speech. If you look at how news media is failing – is the interest of the dispossessed even a consideration? Even traditional media, radio, and TV haven’t gone far enough to address the news and information needs of the dispossessed. ”