Media bias raises concern

The trust between journalists and citizens continues to deteriorate every day as people do not trust the media with their stories anymore.

Should publications allow journalists to write opinion pieces about stories or political events they cover? Where do we draw the line as journalists on freedom of expression and attacks on those who we do not agree with, politically or otherwise?

Is it an attack on media freedom when politicians and prominent people in society criticise journalists on public platforms? Are you as a journalist still wearing your journalistic hat when writing an opinion piece and do we even do it fairly?

We recently saw Inkatha Freedom Party members march to the offices of City Press, where they accused the editor of violating media ethics in his opinion pieces on the party’s founding leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Journalists possess a lot of public influence through their writing and the stories that we write are read by thousands of people. Why do we then cry foul when politicians attack us on what we wrote in our opinion pieces?

A lot of politicians and other members of the public have raised their concerns about our writing and how biased we have become. We have been accused of bidding for those who are seen as being angels and we have been accused of bashing those who are seen to be devils in society.

Have we reported fairly on those accused of state capture? Have we reported fairly on former president Jacob Zuma and now suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane? Have we reported fairly on suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and many others who are seen to be corrupt?

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We have created a space where some of our colleagues are called Thuma Mina minions while others are called RET (radical economic transformation) journalists. Journalists write and sometimes go on the radio to make damning allegations about people without any shred of evidence and when those certain individuals reply, they are accused of trying to suppress media freedom and trying to silence journalists.

The trust between journalists and citizens continues to deteriorate every day as people do not trust us with their stories any more because they feel we will twist their words. Is it not for the best that we just focus on covering our stories and going back home and stop involving ourselves in meaningless debates about who is the better devil?

I believe that journalists should be held to the same standards as judges because they possess the power to influence people. As human beings, we are unconsciously biased and I do not believe one would be able to cover a story of a person that they do not like or agree with, fairly.

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The problem we have is some of us in the media look up to certain people, which translates to giving them a benefit of the doubt when they are accused of wrongdoing. The challenges we face in the media are the same challenges every citizen faces and we need to confront our biases. We should ask ourselves before doing stories if we would cover the story the same way if the subject was someone we like or dislike.

There are still journalists who are genuine about their work and there are some who are not, exactly like the police, where some are there to really fight crime while some police officers are just there to protect criminals.

Mzangwe is employed by The Citizen but writes in his personal capacity

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