A debate about whether journalists should publicly support political parties has been brewing for more than a week now. Some commentators have have condemned the decision by a pair of senior journalists to don ANC regalia at a recent event, while others brushed it off. PONTSHO PILANE asked people if they think a journalist’s political affiliation would affect their credibility and reporting.
Amogelang Manganyi, 23, medical student, Hammanskraal
Journalists should not hide their political affiliations; hiding can never be a good thing. Journalists have access to influencing more people and that means that they hold some kind of power. We are a product of our environment and the ideologies we believe in shape our views in one way or the other. To say that just because someone is a journalist, they cannot express their views is not only unfair, but impractical. I think that it is important for them to publicly state their political allegiances because this has nothing to do with aiming for objectivity. It may be a idealistic outcome, but knowing which side of the team a journalist is on will also help in identifying whether they are being biased in their work.
Mitchell Hunter, 21, student, Observatory
It is false to believe that any journalist is politically neutral – whether this is being affiliated with a certain political party or not, everyone is biased. Journalists that publicly declare their allegiance to certain political parties are much more beneficial than those that withhold this information. It is a good thing because I can read their work knowing which side they are on, it makes journalists more credible and that way, as a citizen, I can think for myself. Journalism as a profession should evolve and consider the fact that publicly declaring your favour for a certain political party is not a bad thing, especially because so many already do it in private.
Luckyboy Mkhondwane, 38, facilitator, Nigel
It is unethical for journalists to publicly reveal their political affiliations because the media is supposed to be the mouthpiece of the community and certain parts of the community will feel neglected or misrepresented. A journalist’s job is to be impartial as they possibly can, because their work affects the general public and shapes the opinions of many. I think our media is very biased and this taints our democracy and freedom. The biased nature of our media is too obvious and something needs to be done.
Slindile Mncube, 25, fund-raising coordinator, Johannesburg
It is a person’s right to be affiliated with the political party of their choice, but that right comes with great responsibility when you are journalist. Because journalists have the ability to shape the ideologies of many, it is important for them to keep their allegiances private. On the other hand, if we as the public know journalists’ political loyalties, we could measure their credibility and their ability to be objective much better.
Thembela Ndaba*, 35, strategist, Johannesburg
Does it even matter if we know a journalist’s political allegiances? I think not. Many of the news publications in South Africa hide behind freedom of speech and the right to their opinion, which I think is utter crap. It is very clear that media publications are anti-government and the ruling party, but they hide behind “keeping government accountable”, as if that is the media’s only job. I don’t buy this one-sided moral high ground these self-appointed custodians of media ethics are trying to sell us. Let us see the same enthusiasm to expose corruption when the private sector is involved and then I will take this debate seriously.
*Not their real name.
– Featured image via Wikimedia Commons