Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

On Freedom of the Press

This was supposed to have been my new Big Issue column inspired by Blade Nzimande’s rantings and the proposed media tribunal, but then the government arrested Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika and are currently holding him in an undisclosed location, accused of conspiring against the government. I needed to post it now. Way to go on living up to the old regime!

Freedom of Re-Press-ion

It’s been a nasty comedown from the high spirits and triumphant plastic trumpet parpage of late. Emerging blinking into the harsh daylight of the real world, I’m beginning to wonder if certain outspoken politicians don’t have a point.

All that depressing xenophobia, failing health systems, overloaded courts, crime and corruption and cronyism and nonsense? Let’s just agree to not talk about it. Better yet, let’s prosecute the crap out of those who do!

I’m envisioning a whole new New South Africa, one built on the foundations of, well, apartheid, really. Not that whole ugly black-white business, because that’s sooooo 1987. It’s not about race, anymore. It’s about money, baby, getting it, keeping it, rolling around in it with your tongue hanging out, like dogs in those mucky puddles the garbage trucks leave behind.

Look there’s no doubt that apartheid got at least some stuff right. Like protecting us from obesity and getting the caffeine shakes by keeping MacDonalds and Pepsi out of the country, say.

Or ensuring we would never suffer an ignominious defeat in the international sporting arena by ensuring we weren’t allowed to compete in the international sporting arena.

And do you think rockstars would have bothered to compose songs about us if we didn’t have that oppressive evil regime? Heck, Peter Gabriel should send PW Botha’s estate a cheque for royalties!

But if there was one thing the National Party government was particularly good at, even more so than breaking up families and breaking down people, assassinating troublemakers and using torture methods that would make a CIA operative blush, it was keeping the pesky media in its place.

And the best place to keep the media was squashed under the government’s bloated bum, spinning every noxious fart of that regime into sweet propaganda perfume, with notes of roses and hunky-dory and only a subtle undertone of rotting corpses. It helped to have a censor board who approved everything before it went out.

It helped more to actually own the media. Otherwise you got rabble-rouser newspaper editors who printed blank front pages in protest of the censor or ran articles full of black bars. They should have been grateful! Considering journalists get paid per word, it probably helped save money.

Our current government could learn a lot from the apartheid masters when it comes to that scurvy cur of the media and the blogosphere yapping about underhanded deals or digging up embarrassing secret documents and running round the neighbourhood with them.

But in the repressing-the-free-press stakes, even apartheid South Africa didn’t have all the answers. I think we need to look further afield.

After all, the proposed new media tribunal which makes it a crime to have classified documents, is a smack with a rolled-up newspaper compared to the measures REAL oppressive nations like Zim, China, North Korea, Burma and Iran use to deal with their detractors.

Why bother with the schlep and admin of a tribunal (never mind the schlep and admin of changing the constitution to make said tribunal vaguely legal).

Got troublesome media? Chuck em in jail, ideally a secret one, where no-one will hear them scream or ever find them again. Shut down the papers and, while you’re at it, the whole Internet! Get your cronies to run the broadcasting corporations and the news outlets (literacy entirely optional)! Or simply execute every motherland-insulting last one of them.

And then we can get back to the real business of doing business with arms dealers and mafia bosses and morally bankrupt corporations without any of the doom-and-gloomers or naysayers or critics in the press whining and moaning like a chorus of out-of-tune vuvuzelas. Because let’s face it, aren’t they the ones who are really bringing this country down?


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    August 4th, 2010 @22:58 #

    You go, girl. Timely and trenchant.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    August 5th, 2010 @08:57 #


  • WinnieTheAngel
    August 5th, 2010 @17:32 #

    Are you taking a stance or just making sarcastic refernces to apartheid? Sorry don't see the point.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    August 5th, 2010 @18:19 #



Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat