When delivering a keynote address at the University of SA’s annual media conference recently, Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo highlighted a number of important roles the media should play in building a better SA. She said the media must ensure citizens make responsible and informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation.
This is very relevant as the country commemorates Women’s Month, which encourages necessary introspection and action in the midst of the many instances of abuse and attacks on women and children. The public needs reliable information so they know what is happening around them, as their survival may depend on it.
The provision of independent and reliable information can go a long way towards helping manage conflict and promote democratic principles. During high-publicity court cases, for example, the media are often accused of stirring up public hysteria by underlining the rights of the aggrieved, while overlooking the rights of the accused.
This is particularly relevant in criminal matters, where the idea of justice being extended to all seems unpalatable in light of growing frustrations regarding the high rate of crimes against women. Free and independent media become essential to expose wrongs and shine a light on issues that are vital for the public and the country’s democracy.
If we are to deal with SA’s structural inequalities, justice must be made more accessible. Access to justice unlocks all the other rights enshrined in the Constitution.
It is therefore important, as we commemorate the courageous women of 1956, that we remind the media to not only highlight the plight of women, but also to empower them with relevant information.