Saturday, August 10, 2013

"moegoe" or "mampara"

IN A nod to media freedom, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission has ruled in favour of well-known columnist Justice Malala, who faced a complaint after having dubbed President Jacob Zuma "Loser of the Week" on his Justice Factor show in October. Commissioner Brian Makeketa said the right to freedom of expression permitted journalists to "rate" politicians, even though not everyone might agree with their views. The rating of politicians - through scorecards or weekly titles like "moegoe" or "mampara" - has often been criticised. Media law expert and Webber Wentzel partner Dario Milo said the judgment "re-emphasised the point that rating of politicians is a legitimate form of commentary in a democracy and must be given appropriate breathing space". Mr Malala gave Mr Zuma the title of "loser" because Mr Zuma had called for the lifting of sanctions in Zimbabwe. This prompted a complaint from veteran trade unionist Cunningham Ngcukana, a former deputy director-general in the Presidency under Thabo Mbeki. He also took issue with Mr Malala's disparaging reference to a statement by Mr Mbeki that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe. Mr Ngcukana said both comments were "distortions", misled the public and were based on facts taken out of context. He said Mr Malala was using his position to "settle a personal score" with Mr Mbeki. The broadcasting code allows for comment and criticism, as long as it is "an honest expression of opinion", presented in a way that "appears clearly to be comment", and it is made "on facts truly stated or fairly indicated and referred to". Mr Makeketa found Mr Malala had not distorted the facts. While he took editorial licence with the facts, he did so in a way that "was totally compatible with the give- and-take nature of the democratic political debate . in SA". But Mr Ngcukana said he would appeal the judgment as the panel had "misdirected itself" on the facts and the code. While other publications rated people, they did so "on facts", he said. Mr Malala, however, "just makes statements, without a factual basis".

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