An SAfm producer called me yesterday to ask if I would join them on their Sunday media programme – on Human Rights Day – to talk with Ashraf Garda about media infringements of peoples’ rights. Isn’t that interesting? The problem is framed purely as media infringing rights, and there is no desire to talk about the overwhelming majority of times when the media protected, promoted and encouraged peoples’ rights.
There is no doubt in my mind that the media does a lot more to give voice to peoples’ rights than the occasional time when it tramples on them. This is not to say the latter is not a problem, but it does go to show how distorted our debate has become, how slack our language, how narrow our discourse.
Two things strike me. Those who dislike and fear the media in the ruling party have made it seem as if it is is overwhelmingly and universally guilty of relentlessly tramping on individual rights. This is patently a severe distortion of reality, a paranoid view which fails to see the other side of the coin.
Secondly, it is notable how easily SAfm have bought into this attitude. Even a media house is thinking this way, even journalists and producers are accepting this top-down definition of the problem.
To be fair, when I pointed this out, the producer apologised and backed off fast, saying they would balance it out to talk to both the media’s contribution to and intrusions into peoples’ rights.
But then this morning I see a media release on the SAfm site that says I am going to “look at the best and worst of media wrongs”. It might be that the gravest crime here is not distortion but just bad grammar.
I await the interview with trepidation and fear! I will be on my garda.