August 12, 2010

South African Press Xenophobia

South African Press reporting has elements of xenophobia
The subject of a new South African legislation that would establish a Press Tribunal has been argued by opposition parties as a threat to free press. While Press freedom is a fundamental part of a viable democracy I still agree very strongly that the motives of the press as expressed in the reporting language is often questionable at best and blatantly speculative. It is my opinion that many Editors do not understand the implications of what they allow to be published in their newspapers.
From my perspective I see that the South African Press in general seems to have a tradition of reporting negatively on many events in Africa particularly events in Nigeria. A Nigeria breaking the law is headline event any day. In today’s Star Newspaper under the world section (page 4, 12 August 2010) there is this report about the Airport Scanners intended for use at International Airports in Nigeria (bought after Abdulmutallab, the failed Christmas day bomber). The Star simply reported that these “scanners are not being used months after they were bought” It makes absolutely no mention that the scanners are being used selectively pending the training of enough personnel to operate them. It also makes no mention that the training was now started at least by the 11th of August 2010. A more factual report about the same scanners could be found on the website of a local Newspaper (see Thisdayonline). A look at the online version of the the South African National dailies shows that most of the reports on Africa, particularly Nigeria is of a predominantly negative nature (see IOL Online).
Take this instance. The IOL headline report on West Africa today 12/08/2010 says: “Nigeria earmarks funds for Jonathan’s jets” and then goes on to contrast that with the lack of financing for electricity development for the citizens while in the same breathe referring
to Nigeria as an Oil-Rich-country. It makes no mention that the Presidential fleet is composed of aging or obsolete aircrafts and that the new jets where to replace other jets that are costing as much or more than the new ones to maintain. It also fails to mention that the president’s plane nearly crashed while Jonathan was attending the 15th AU General Assembly last month in Uganda nor does it mention that the presidential fleet is also used by diplomats and other government officials. What was the purpose of this kind of irresponsible reporting? It was no secret that the apartheid government discouraged interaction between South Africans and other Africans and even tried to “appease” the South African blacks with the inference that South African blacks are economically better than other Africans even with apartheid. The apartheid educational system also tried to teach that the rest of Africa is bad influence to have. Some of my friends still remind me of some of the things they were told at school about Nigeria years ago. But it has been over 10years since apartheid and the Press still carries on in that tradition when it should know better. It is possible that this kind of reporting is exactly what is fuelling the public xenophobia. Neither does it serve the purpose of NEPAD or does it?
Many comrades know that they benefited enormously from the African brotherhood. Portraying fellow Africans as uncivilized, corrupt, and as people coming to take our jobs, women and land is simply not objective. Categorizing all Nigerians as corrupt is like categorizing all South African as HIV positive.Corruption is a disease just as much but there are millions who do not have it and only a qualified doctor after the appropriate tests can tell you what you suffer from and the press is no doctor. The current ANC bill for a press tribunal would serve the press just right. The Press Ombudsman has failed to provide the kind of avenue needed by offended subjects of press reporting to get redress legally.


Anonymous said...

First, you must take this criticism constructively. I have learned that our people abhor criticism, but as an educated person, criticism should be a part of your and my existence.

Let me begin by correcting you. You said, "it has been over 10 years since apartheid". That is wrong. Nelson Mandela came out of prison in 1989. Apartheid ended in 1989. That is not 10 but 20 years ago. As you correct the South African press, you must also get your facts right.

Now, to the issue at hand. Today, South Africa is reporting negatively on Nigeria or portraying Nigeria in a bad light. Last month, BBC 2 portrayed Nigeria in a bad light. Some time ago, Aljazeera portrayed Nigeria in a bad light. Before that, CNN portrayed Nigeria in a bad light. Then Libya portrayed Nigeria in a bad light. If so many people are portraying us in a bad light, may be there is some truth to the portrayals. Why don't we for once exceed expectations so that people cannot help but see us in another light. Every international news about Nigeria is bad. Even the World Cup news about Nigeria was bad. But then, when our young women exceeded expectations, didn't the international community cheer them on? Didn't South Africans support us during the World Cup?
When so many complain about Nigeria, may be Nigeria is bad. Nigeria is bad, my brother. There is poor or no electricity supply. Is it news to you? We have very, very bad roads. Is that news to you? Our airports are bad. The so-called international airports in Nigeria can't even qualify for very local airports in some countries. Isn't that true?

Do you expect South Africans to give us the benefit of doubt? Why? You want them to be like the Nigerian press? Docile? Lazy? No investigative reporting? Copying news from the internet and reading to Nigerians. Turning a blind eye to the policemen who collect N20 every day from poor Nigerians and shooting them when they don't pay. Is that what you want?

Why don't we try for once to exceed expectations? South Africa received a lot of bad press in the months prior to the World Cup on the their level of preparedness and security. Rather than dwell on the criticisms, they worked hard to prove everyone wrong. And did they succeed? Absolutely, the World Cup in SA was marvelous, and everyone forgot the bad news about SA and enjoyed themselves. Why can't we do that?

I urge you to shine your light on Nigeria. There is too much wrong with our country, and you can't ignore them. Ask any Nigerian. There is no electricity, bad roads, no security, no water, no government, stealing government, extorting government (when they can steal from the coffers, they extort from us), no public transportation, no low income housing, no land line telephone service, no trash removal, no local government, no civil service, expensive food, old cars every where, okada for public transportation, 40 year old vehicles as buses, dead government agencies (NITEL, Nig. Airways, Nig. Railway Corp., Nig. Coal Corp., NIPOST, to name a few), incompetent government officials (from the presidency down to the local government level), virtually no legal system (slow and lazy judiciary), no elections, not even a voter's register (after 10 years of democracy) and so much more. Do you know we have the expensive government in the world? We have the best paid governors, the best paid legislators, the best paid ministers. Each governor, federal legislator, or minister takes home more money than the president of the United States!

With all these, it is amazing you have time for what South Africans think of us. You shouldn't have time for South Africans. Focus on your home. Focus on what is within our control. Focus on what WE can do to make Nigeria better.

That is my advice and my opinion.
Chukwuma Odelugo. ODELUGO & ASSOCIATES, Barristers and Solicitors. Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Zain Nigeria

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