Leave the Media to Do Its Job

The furore surrounding the flighting of an interview with two self-confessed criminals by etv has surely raised the ire of the head honchos down Police Avenue.

For those who have not been following the story, Last week our “most trusted” television station flighted the interview where the two “scums” threatened to rob tourists coming into the country for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

It is reported that one of the interviewees has since committed suicide as a result of the heat generated by this story. I say good riddance.

The current debate though is whether etv acted morally or in the public interest in broadcasting the story in the first place. Judging by the comments from police headquarters, you could swear that the television channel committed a cardinal sin, which is punishable with death.

The real issue is whether freedom of speech extends to giving criminals the right to brag about their trade while in the same breath threatening law abiding citizens and visitors to the country who contribute so much to our country’s economic development.

The question that begs answering though is who determines where these rights begin or end? For one, I do not believe etv is guilty of anything other than to give South Africans an opportunity to hear from the other side in the fight against crime.

Does it not help the cause to understand the psychology of the criminal and get into his head space in deducing the motives for his actions?

I think etv should be praised for flighting this story. Responsible journalism does not equate censorship. What the ministry of police are asking the media to do borders on self censorship.

There are situations where the media has to apply some restraint in covering certain stories. But that decision has to be left to the media and not imposed by the powers that be.

That smacks of Apartheid era tactics that forced our media to operate as pariahs. This is not acceptable in the South Africa of today.

We have a constitution that guarantees media freedom. We also have institutions such as the press ombudsman and the Broadcast Complaints Commission where violations can be reported. The police chiefs should back off and allow the media to do its job.