It was the end of a long day for Kader Asmal, then Minister of Education. He'd wrestled with the disaster of schooling in the country, then had a long meeting with the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef). It was circa 2004, and I was part of the Sanef delegation. The memory came to me this week when hearing the news of his death.
Our request for the Sanef meeting with the Minister was twofold:
Journalists like to see journalists as heroes. That’s excluding their peers in state-owned media in Africa who are more usually propagandists rather than journalists.
On the other side of the fence, governments typically like to see journalists as villains, while civil society – sitting on the fence – sees them as flawed heroes, tainted by commercial considerations.
Audiences are more sanguine. They see some journalists as angels, some as devils.
Lwanga Mwilu completed her MA thesis under my supervision in 2010. It was a complex piece of work, fusing the following issues:
* Theories of free speech and the limits
* Interrogation of hate speech and xenophobic speech (not exactly the same things)
* Online participation and moderation
* Xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2008
With a myriad experiences out there, what can South Africa learn in regard to reform (or replacing) the press self-regulatory system?
In order to avoid ad hoc or opportunistic borrowing, I devised a system. It's a tripartite test that focuses on (a) Matching our situ to a source context and purpose, (b) Abstracting a general model, and (c) Destination fitness analysis. (or M.A.D if you want an easy acronym).
It was a useful exercise that informed my submission to the Press Council's self review.