Editor’s note

Editor’s note

Date: September 18, 2011
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Welcome to Issue 20 of the Diversity Exchange!

This month’s edition has come out at a time when media practitioners including journalists, media educators and media activists are in Cape Town to attend the first Pan African Conference on Access to Information.  The GMDC seminars have sought to give a voice to citizens on the draft Declaration on Access to Information. In August, we convened three seminars in Namibia, and South Africa (with the Media Institute of Southern Africa) and in Tanzania on the topic “what has gender got to do with media freedom and access to information?” The seminar in South Africa coincided with the meeting of experts drafting the Declaration. Suggestions made included several references to unequal access to information; language; audience preferences; media literacy and other areas pertinent to gender. The latest draft, and further comments made from a gender perspective, can be accessed here. The final opportunity to make comments will be at the Summit where the GMDC will be well represented. Please submit any comments you might want to make to gmdcmanager@genderlinks.org.za!

The Declaration on Access to Information will be adopted at a session that will bring together two important conferences, the Pan African Conference on Access to Information and the Highway Africa Conference that will be run under the banner African Media and the Global Sustainability Challenge in Cape Town from 17-19 September 2011.

On 1 August the Sowetan shocked readers with a column titled “Haffajee does it for white masters”   written by Eric Miyeni. The column prompted debate on media ethics, responsible journalism as well as the role of editors in newsrooms. The debate centred on the balance between rights and responsibilities in the often fraught debates on press freedom.

On 16 August, the Sowetan hit the headlines again with photographs of two on-duty law enforcement officers having sex. The paper went further to publish a disclaimer, justifying publication of the photographs in the public interest. The paper later boasted that it had been sold out, as justification for the story. The debate, as always, had gender dimensions. While the media made much of the woman having a wedding ring and therefore being married, the reports did not say if the man in question was married. He could cheat; she could not.

New media also came into the story. The man made a video of the whole episode so that the woman could not later claim that she had been raped. This is not the first time that live sex shows on cell phones get passed around the public like a virus and end up on the front pages of newspapers.

Ticha Tsedu argues the Sowetan subscribes to the South African Press Code that prescribes that “a visual presentation of sexual conduct may not be published, unless a legitimate public interest dictates otherwise”. He wonders if audience research findings feature in the definition of legitimate public interest.

Who is the public? Does this public determine media output or does the media exercise some discretion? Does this public have a choice? These are some of the questions that I found myself grappling with. An internal lekgotla with the South African Human Rights Commission left me with more questions than answers. What are the limits of freedom of expression? Who determines these? How do other rights (like the right to privacy, dignity and gender equality) get balanced against these rights?

Within a democratic society, hate speech is an example of one limit to the right to freedom of expression. The South African Constitution defines “hate speech” as speech that causes harm. The media has an important role to play in challenging hate speech and stereotypes. How does it fare in covering LGBTI citizens? Mona Hakimi analyses this issue.

Women are finding creative ways to tell their stories. The Poster Women project is a visual mapping of the women’s movement in India through the posters the movement has produced. The idea is to ask what the history of the movement would look like through its posters and the visual images it used, the various campaigns that the movement has engaged with and the forms these campaigns have taken over a period of time. Read about this exciting initiative from India!

Tanzania broke new ground with the first launch of the Media Centres of Excellence in Gender Mainstreaming in Dar-es-Salaam. Eight media policy facilitators attended a TOT in Johannesburg in August. They will be training journalists to cover gender-based violence ahead of the 16 Days of Activism. This is part of a wide- ranging back stopping initiative to help journalists find relevant gender angles for their stories.

The Arab spring continues. We are all wondering where Gadhafi could be hiding: Algeria or maybe Niger? Are they going to treat him the way they did Gbagbo of Ivory Coast? We are all waiting. International media coverage has labelled those fighting Gadhafi’s regime as ‘rebels’. But these may soon emerge as the liberators of the country! Then, as before, the global press will have to change tack.

The GMDC knowledge hub is offering new information which can be used by trainers and researchers for topics related to gender, media and diversity. Each issue highlights three items from each of our databases: newspaper clippings, case studies, research and publications. Our “Mirror on the media” section provides an analysis of the Sowetan scandal and journalism ethics.

Finally, the GMDC will soon be signing an MOU with the Malawi Institute for Journalism (www.mij.mw), a leading training institution for professional journalism based in Blantyre, Malawi. During the Africa Media Summit, GL Executive Director Colleen Lowe Morna will speak on gender and the media at a meeting organised by UNESCO on Centres of Excellence for media training. Several GMDC media training institute partners will be at the meeting, an important networking opportunity for our partners!



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