Tuesday, October 20, 2009

ANC stalwart Kader Asmal berates our lame mainstream media

Question more is what he is saying. Instead of settling into a cosy relationship with the ANC regime, the media should be probing hard and asking tough questions. Probe dammit, make the corrupt squirm, do your jobs or get out of the business!

"You are allowing yourselves to be walked over"

ANC shocked by Kader Asmal's remarks

The media should ask questions about the circumstances that led to the dropping of charges against President Jacob Zuma.

This is the view of former minister Kader Asmal, who was speaking at a function to celebrate media freedom day at the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town yesterday.

He said journalists should have freedom of access to information and urged them to interrogate the reasons given for the dropping of the charges.

"What about the role of the acting head of public prosecutions? What were the circumstances and background to withdrawing the case against (Zuma)?

'If you don't have access to information, press freedom is diminished'
"What are the legalities of depending on illicitly obtained information?" he asked.

Acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe used the existence of taped conversations between former prosecutions boss Bulelani Ngcuka and former Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy discussing the timing of pressing charges against Zuma as his reason for dropping the charges.

Mpshe said at the time that he had been given the tapes by Zuma's attorney, Michael Hulley, but there have been questions raised about how he (Hulley) obtained the tapes, with some saying they were leaked by intelligence operatives sympathetic to Zuma.

The inspector-general of intelligence has been probing the matter.

Asmal said it was important for press freedom that journalists asked questions about this and other issues, such as the purchase of arms by the government.

"If you don't have access to information, press freedom is diminished," he said.

He also blasted the ANC for the manner in which recent hearings on labour brokers were conducted, saying the process had been abused.

COPE member Willie Madisha and the DA's Ian Ollis withdrew from participating in public hearings after they were heckled by participants wearing Cosatu T-shirts who were throwing empty plastic bottles and whistling at a hall in Germiston, east of Johannesburg.

"The governing party abused that process to ensure that there was no proper hearing," Asmal said.

The issue of labour broking has evoked serious debate, with Cosatu and its affiliates pushing for labour brokers to be banned.

He blasted journalists for allowing a number of parliamentary committee meetings to be held behind closed doors, when they should be open to the public.

Examples of these, he said, were the recent decision by the police portfolio committee to hold a crime statistics briefing with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa behind closed doors.

He also cited the failed attempt by the defence and military veterans portfolio committee to have the meeting with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee - the government's arms sales watchdog - behind closed doors for a briefing on arms transactions entered into by the state.

"Committees seem to be retreating behind closed doors at the drop of a hat. The fact that they (the police committee) got away with a confidential briefing is nonsensical. You are allowing yourselves to be walked over," he added.

The date October 19, known as Black Wednesday, marked the closure of several newspapers, including The World, by the apartheid government in 1977.

A number of journalists and other activists were also rounded up and detained on that day. - IOL

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