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‘Journalism profession in SA is under siege’

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga says South African authorities have used the fake news phenomenon as a way to legitimise the blocking of credible information.

FILE: Picture: Pixabay.com.

AUCKLAND PARK - Political analyst Ralph Mathekga says the lack of equitable access to information is proliferating the spread of fake news in South Africa.

The Institute for the Advancement of Journalism is hosting a dialogue with industry players on how fake news has changed the profession’s landscape.

The discussion has also probed who stands to benefit from these distortions and how those in the profession can deal with cyber security.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga says he believes the journalism profession in South Africa is under siege.

“And the biggest struggle in South Africa is who has access to influencing the public. We all know one of the reasons why the governing party does not have a problem with what the journalists report; is because it doesn’t reach the majority of the people... so it doesn't matter.”

Wits journalism professor Franz Kruger says while there have always been lies there is now a more deliberate attempt to spread incorrect information.

The panellists agree that social media has fast-tracked the ability for those to spread false news and there is a need for journalists to interrogate the quality of their work.

Mathekga says South African authorities have used the fake news phenomenon as a way to legitimise the blocking of credible information.

He says the US is in a better position to self-regulate its fake news because citizens living there have greater access to information and South Africa is lagging behind.

“Where majority of people are no part of this conversation, but then how do you bring them into the conversation while you have this idea of fake news coming up? Are they even going to trust the information you’re going to try to drive in their direction?”

The Huffington Post’s Deshnee Subramany says the public has been losing trust in journalists for some time now.

“It hasn’t been because there’s been a deluge of fake news and fake facts coming from them, it’s just that they’ve looked at us and said: ‘actually we don’t like the way you’re writing about us anymore, we don’t like this anymore’. And I think this push of fake news is really going to help us to really come back to ourselves and the basics of journalism.”

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)

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