Integrity and independence in a murky world

October 23, 2019

Deputy Reserve Bank Governor Kuben Naidoo spoke at the South African National Editors’ Forum function commemorating Black Wednesday held in Johannesburg on October 18 2019. 

 

Reflections on the value of the media’s victories 42 years since Black Wednesday have given the journalists in South Africa a chance to question what music the sector has been “dancing” to lately.

 

South Africa’s Deputy Reserve Bank Governor Kuben Naidoo told the members of the media and SANEF at the organisations annual #BlackWednesday Gala Dinner that even in a democracy the pressures facing journalists were similar to the dark days of apartheid. 

 

According to Naidoo, the often untidy and highly contested political space the two institutions operate in forces them to struggle with the same dance: The need for independence balanced b

y the need to be held accountable to society. 

 

“Similarly, central banks seek to be independent from political and commercial interference while holding the trust of the public through being open, transparent, impartial and accountable,” he explained. “And this is no popularity contest,” said Naidoo.

 

“It is our responsibility to tell the truth, in all its gory detail.” 

 

However he also cautioned against populism.

 

“Maintaining journalistic integrity in today’s world is harder than safeguarding an independent central bank,” Naidoo explained. 

 

Naidoo said journalists are also in a similar position to central banks who don’t really have the authority to stop politicians from stealing from the coffers. “Similarly, as journalists you do not stand in the way of injustice or malfeasance. You ‘merely’ shine a light on it, bringing to the fore the costs of such actions.”

 

Where are we now?

 

South African National Editors’ Forum Mahlatse Mahlase said South African journalism is now on survival mode.

 

Speaking at the same event, SANEF Chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase said the legitimacy crisis journalism faces spelt bad news for South Africa’s democracy. She said it is now on survival mode and its demise will be devastating. 

 

“Our new struggle is to remind this generation and the next that the struggles and pains of the generation before cannot be in vain,” Mahlase said. 

 

SANEF is currently conducting a Commission of Inquiry into Media Credibility and Ethics headed by retired judge Kathleen Satchwell. 

 

The commission commenced its work in July 2019 and is expected to wrap its work in April 2020. The inquiry will cover ethical challenges in broadcast, print and online publications will also include ethical challenges in commercial and community media organisations. 

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