We vow to be balanced, free from bias and fair

Published 27 September 2017, by Dr Iqbal Survé

South Africa has entered one of the most turbulent political periods since the advent of democracy on April 27, 1994. It is not an understatement to say the leadership of the entire country is potentially at stake when the ruling ANC holds its elective conference in Joburg in December.

President Jacob Zuma has already made it clear that he will relinquish the presidency of the ANC then, rather than create the spectre of two centres of power when his term at the Union Buildings expires in 2019. This is admirable in any society, but particularly so in a continent such as ours. South Africa has always been a beacon for democracy, not just for Africa, over the past 23 years.

Democracy, in its full bloom, is never neat or tidy. By definition it is messy, often robust; the more entrenched a democratic society is, the more uproarious its debates and exchanges.

The ANC certainly personifies this spirit of contestation and difference of opinion, even though the movement – Africa’s oldest – is well over 100 years old. This leadership contest, which has yet to officially begin, embodies this same spirit too – which is where the greatest danger lies and concomitantly the importance of the role that the media plays.

We live in a world of democratised information, where social media has become both the world’s greatest enabler and paradoxically the greatest threat as it spreads fake news with the same speed and dexterity as real news. In an environment where the stakes are as high as this, right here at home, so too the propensity to spread fake news will intensify, designed with only one purpose: to confuse conference delegates with often quite sophisticated smear campaigns.

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