Fazila Farouk, Executive Director of the South African Civil Society Information Service talks about how the media has polarised the debate on the economy between the left and the right in her opening remarks at a roundtable discussion, which sought to probe how the South African media reports on the economy.
The event, held in mid September was co-hosted by SACSIS, and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung South Africa Office.
Farouk explained that SACSIS is a social justice news agency that aims to provide progressive commentary to the mainstream media. It has identified the need to obtain a deeper understanding of media perspectives on the South African economy.
She said that it is important to interrogate whether the media believes that the South African economy is on the right growth path, and to hear the views of the media on how the economy can be made more inclusive. It would also be useful to know how decisions are made on reporting on the economy, and whether the media has a vision for the economic development in the country.
According to Farouk, the Media occupies an important position in society since it holds the key to shaping and informing public opinion based on what it chooses to focus on and how it reports, and equally importantly, what it does not report.
Media neutrality is a myth. The media most certainly channels a particular perspective in what it chooses to provide coverage of. This is not necessarily a negative factor. Those working with media who are called on to interpret information for other people generally find it difficult to remain neutral. For its part, SACSIS is partisan in its views, placing itself firmly on the side of the poor and of social justice.
However, a central question that needs to be addressed is whether the media is on the side of pro-poor economic development and whether the media believes that this requires privileging the needs of the poor above all other needs.
Media representatives that spoke at the event included Nic Dawes (Editor in Chief of the Mail and Guardian), Alide Dasnois (Editor of the Cape Times), Mondli Makhanya (Editor in Chief of Avusa Media and Chairman of SANEF) as well as Reg Rumney (Head of the Centre for Economics Journalism in Africa, Rhodes University).