Sunday, 15 November 2009

Justice Malala: The end of a newspaper is the end of democracy

The recent death – or is it the beginning of the end of publication in South Africa and the world for whatever reason? – of The Weekender, South African weekly newspaper published on Saturdays, which saw the last of its edition last week Saturday left many of its subscribers and just followers wondering.

Not wondering if – after a couple of years for reasons it was initially cancelled – that the newspaper be re-launched as it has happened to others publications during apartheid.

Not wondering if its death was a result political foul play that could have taken place for the significant role the newspaper has played since its launch a few years ago, but wondering, instead, if the death of this publication is due to the lead stories it has broken since its inception and democracy as we have come to know it in other countries to silence those who are very vocal and critical of the government.

It was Justice Malala, the Financial Mail & The Times columnist, paying tribute to the newspaper this Monday who said "when a newspaper like The Weekender dies, those rich voices diminish, and so does our [read as South African] democracy".

The Weekender was the first to break the story and the next day Mbeki announced on national television his acceptance of the ANC directive. Perhaps that is why some of us stay in this business: we want to tell people things, to give people information that helps them make decisions in their daily lives, suggests Malala.

However, not many, or at least myself, would agree with his assertion that just the end of one newspaper in the country will kill or diminish the country's democracy.

It is worth emphasising that the death of one newspaper is definately not be the end of 'our democracy'.

This is because democracy itself was not build on or by newspapers alone. Instead, it was contents of newspapers that to date, one can say, have managed to strengthen democracy and not the death thereof as suggested by Malala, unless in reference to other countries.

No, Malala, it will not happen and it sure will not be the end of democracy as we have come to know it in South Africa.

Most importantly, this partly because:

  • There are about more than ten daily newspapers in South Africa,
  • There are also about 6, if not more, weekly newspapers many of which are Sundays while others are for Fridays and Saturdays, The Weekender having being one of them,
  • There are 'blogs' and many South Africans have opted to having one for different reasons, myself included: Akanyang Africa, and even these weekly or daily newspapers have blogs to which a journalist or commentator/analyst would contribute to.

Therefore for reasons mentioned above and many others not mentioned it is very unlikely that what Malala is saying is true or just close to the truth and or it will happen.

Certainly, as a columnist too for example he never stopped writing or contributing to the industry even when other publications ceased or were cancelled as mentioned before.

This is also confirmed by Malala himself when he says 'It had helped expose Leonard Chuene's lying and had consistently stood against senseless spending, such as in the infamous arms deal... The Weekender was one of the most beautifully written and designed newspapers in South Africa today,' that 'its columnists were always provocative, entertaining, learned and measured' and that it was The Weekender that first broke the story 'and the next day Mbeki announced on national television his acceptance of the ANC directive'.

If Malala and these columnists, as 'provocative, entertaining, learned and measured' as they are or said to be, feel that having ended The Weekender took away the only space the newspaper provided for them to show their creativity and entertainment to the readers – then they are certainly welcome to the Bloggersphere. Here they can start by first creating their blogs and request permission from publishers and management of The Weekender to have their previously published articles to be also published on their different blogs.

It will then be, after permission being granted, that they can continue to show us who have been in the Bloggersphere for over three years at the time of writing this post entry their creativity, entertainment and measurement.

Actually, it is not the end of democracy – by ending just one publication or newspaper – unless you have been banned from blogging in your respective country and or employment for reasons you will hopefully be informed of.

And until such time and you Malala and those who continue to share your narrow-minded suggestion [or is it just a notation share by many in the industry. I doubt!], democracy in South Africa will continue to reign. And it cannot be disputed that one definition of democracy to one person could be different to another person which probably what I think could be the case here.

Is it not surprising that Malala finds the death, if not deliberate killing, of The Weekender the end of democracy yet he still continues to contribute – under democracy in South Africa alive with possibilities by expressing his views, ideas and although at times not many people will agree with, and not that they have to – to The Times newspaper, Financial Mail and other publications around the country?

Should not his definition of democracy, in reference to his The Weekender issue, ended last week Saturday or at least the Monday that followed and that we should not have seen or I should not have responded to his article let alone quoted him in the first place?

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