STEVEN FRIEDMAN: Media lead witch-hunt by taking Winnie claims as fact
When complicated moral issues such as those raised by Madikizela-Mandela’s life are wished away by blaming everything on the treachery of political leaders, the inevitable result is a witch-hunt
The problem with encouraging a witch-hunt is that you may become its victim. Media organisations are understandably worried because journalists have been accused of working for the apartheid government, based on little, if any fact. The claims misread a statement by the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela that journalists whose reporting angered her were "doing the work" of Stratcom, an apartheid government security unit. That is very different from claiming that they worked for it — it means they played into its hands even though they did not work for it. The claims also rely on an allegation by a former apartheid security policeman that he paid 40 journalists to libel Madikizela-Mandela. This was treated as a statement of fact, ignoring the possibility that one of apartheid’s secret police may not be entirely credible. Who needs 40 reporters to defame one person? Media representatives are therefore right to dismiss a story that, on the flimsiest of grounds, threatens the reputations an...