The media, says City Press politics editor Rapule Tabane, has let itself be bated into a personal confrontation with Julius Malema and the EFF, and needs to retreat into objectivity.

It is rare for SA journalists to rebuke their colleagues in public, but it’s been happening more and more, whether in the spat between Jacques Pauw and Chris Steyn, or the spat between Pauw and Noseweek editor Martin Weltz, or the spat between Pauw and everybody who condemned his decision to publish the address of Chez Juju. Wait, there’s a pattern here …

Tabane’s editorial, published on Monday, might have saved its sternest telling-off for Pauw, but his point was a larger one. Journalists, he wrote, are revealing unacceptable bias in whom they cover, how they cover them, and, conversely, who gets a free pass. Tabane’s accusations are complicated and not without contradictions. For starters, demands that the media be objective are naïve: The best the media can hope for is to be conscious of its biases and the myriad ways it alters and manipulates public perception. And here I’m not even talking about editorial slant or the amount of coverage given to a particular party or issue: Something as basic as a headline can contain distortions of reality. Consider some of City Press’s own headlines in recent months, like “Minister at war with SABC board”, “Pouring billions into a black hole” and “VBS: ‘Cyril knew’”. If you want to talk objectively, you have to admit that nobody is at war with the SABC board, that SAA is not a vast hole in spa...

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