THE NEWSDESK: The best tribute to Nelson Mandela is to question vested interests

South Wales Argus: THE NEWSDESK: The best tribute to Nelson Mandela is to question vested interests THE NEWSDESK: The best tribute to Nelson Mandela is to question vested interests

AMONG the myriad of tributes to Nelson Mandela last week were some interesting quotes from the great man.

And none more interesting to me than this: "A critical, independent and investigative Press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The Press must be free from state interference.

"It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials.

"It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour.

"It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens."

Mandela, who could easily have become another Mugabe, instead stood down after his first term as president because he knew that anyone who has a respect for power must know how to relinquish it.

Who knew that the Press plays a vital role in any democracy.

A tribute from a South African journalist in our Darlington-based sister paper The Northern Echo also stuck a chord with me at the weekend.

Gavin Engelbrecht grew up in South Africa when the every utterance of Mandela's name was banned, to publish his image was a criminal act, and the abuse and torture of black people was commonplace. As a young man, he admits he became a willing footsoldier of Apartheid, but the things he witnessed led him to lay down his gun and, ultimately, to leave his country of birth.

He wrote: "As a child I was inculcated with the tenets of white superiority.

"The only black people I had dealings with were the “boy” who worked in the garden and the “girl” who lived in a small room in the back garden and tended to our domestic chores....

"On leaving school, I was conscripted into the South African Police to do my compulsory military training.

"Just weeks before completing our training we were sent into Alexandra, near Johannesburg, as the bloody riots of June 1976 erupted. It was the first time I had been in a black township and it felt as if I was in a foreign country.

"Seeing schools and administrative buildings in flames fuelled my racial prejudices. Give them schools and look what they do with them. Burn them them down I reasoned. They are only puppets of their Communist masters and not fit to govern. I became a willing footsoldier of Apartheid....

"Casual brutality against innocent black people and torture to extract information from suspected criminals were part of the daily routine.

"Witnessing one particularly brutal interrogation forced me to question everything I represented and eventually become a staunch opponent of the regime and everything it stood for. "

He wrote that the "bestial" treatment of a black man by a white police colleague still haunts him.

He added: "I was spurred to hand in my gun and become a journalist at the The Star, which sought to place the spotlight on the injustices of the system within constraints of draconian censorship laws. "

He left the country at the height of "The Emergency".

Engelbrecht wrote: "When he (Mandela) was freed most white people awaited his first speech with trepidation and fear.

"Here who was a man who had every reason to be bitter and vengeful. Incarcerated for 27 years, he had been refused permission to attend the funerals of his mother and first-born son and only saw his daughters for the first time after more than 10 years in jail. Instead his message was one of reconciliation and peace to the white minority, while making clear the struggle was not over. "

Engelbrecht had travelled from defender of Apartheid to fighter for equality. And he chose to do so by becoming a journalist, questioning authority.

Mandela knew that there must always be some method by which power is challenged.

He understood instinctively why the Press must not be shackled. How years of censorship had led to white South Africans not even knowing what he looked like.

Every country needs a Press which does not get into bed with governments, or the establishment, but is free to question both.

On a local level, every community needs a Press which holds local authorities, politicians, health boards, police and other public bodies to account.

When journalists are afraid to stand apart from the establishment, or kow tow to vested interests, the system breaks down and the people are let down.

They are also let down when a distracting diet of celebrity-obsessed trivia is fed to them daily by some media, while vested interests go unchallenged.

So here's the first question I'm asking this week: How can this country which has suffered so much under austerity measures, many of whose citizens have seen their household incomes plummet, be expected to stomach an 11 per cent pay increase for MPs?

Comments (3)

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5:59pm Sun 8 Dec 13

Katie Re-Registered says...

The trouble is Maria, your idealised British press is controlled by vested interests - overwhelmingly those of a handful of powerful right-wing reactionary heterosexist gender normative media barons. That's why the've been printing misinformation and downright lies about the certain minority groups that they choose to scapegoat: transgendered people, single parents, immigrants, those who do not gender conform etc. Recently, following a campaign of stalking, harassment, lies and public vilification by your supposedly wonderful heroic press purely on the grounds that she was transsexual an innocent woman called Lucy Meadows killed herself. A few weeks ago, an innocent disabled man was burnt alive on a council estate in this country falsely accused of being a paedophile - how did a certain 'news'paper report this? Oh, they produced a long article speculating that he'd brought much of it upon himself for being different and 'annoying'. The Argus has spent so much time producing commentaries and editorials defending a free press as something holy, sacred and getting on a moral high horse about the supposed dangers of implementing the rather timid recommendations of the Leveson Enquiry...one moment, though, was that Rebekah's horse? Noticeably however, the SWA's silence about the current Brooks-Coulson trial couldn't be more of a contrast. Let's not forget: they bugged a murdered and raped little schoolgirl's phone here. You talk about a press free from government interference, but what has actually been happening is that the press is so powerful that it's controlling those who should be the elected representatives of the people and influencing their policies because they fear a backlash from the all-powerful media junta if they step out of line and threaten their vested interests. Journalists like to fancy themselves as 'crusading' yet the historical analogy could be apt in a totally different, unflattering way from the one that they have in mind. Just take a look at a history book and read about the damage that crusaders did as they rampaged through Europe and the near east and you'll find something that mirrors the more unsavoury realities of the mainstream press. You talk about the importance of freedom, yet what the press seems to want is freedom without responsibility - the very same cardinal sin that the right wing tabloids lay upon poorer, much less powerful people on benefits. The fact is, if the press has to be strictly regulated then it's the presses' own fault. They have shown that they cannot be trusted to behave decently and honourably. They have shown that they are liars. Yet even so, they needn't carry on bleating about how oppressed and persecuted they are as most political leaders are still terrified of them. That's why Ed Miliband's recent stand against them was so courageous - yes, it was mostly motivated against the fact that they attacked his beloved, deceased father. However, he'd also criticised the media a few weeks beforehand for the way that they persecuted Lucy Meadows and transsexuals in general - in fact becoming the first British party leader ever to even have the courage to mention the word 'transsexual'. Perhaps his heroic stance here was the very reason why they decided to gang up upon him?
The trouble is Maria, your idealised British press is controlled by vested interests - overwhelmingly those of a handful of powerful right-wing reactionary heterosexist gender normative media barons. That's why the've been printing misinformation and downright lies about the certain minority groups that they choose to scapegoat: transgendered people, single parents, immigrants, those who do not gender conform etc. Recently, following a campaign of stalking, harassment, lies and public vilification by your supposedly wonderful heroic press purely on the grounds that she was transsexual an innocent woman called Lucy Meadows killed herself. A few weeks ago, an innocent disabled man was burnt alive on a council estate in this country falsely accused of being a paedophile - how did a certain 'news'paper report this? Oh, they produced a long article speculating that he'd brought much of it upon himself for being different and 'annoying'. The Argus has spent so much time producing commentaries and editorials defending a free press as something holy, sacred and getting on a moral high horse about the supposed dangers of implementing the rather timid recommendations of the Leveson Enquiry...one moment, though, was that Rebekah's horse? Noticeably however, the SWA's silence about the current Brooks-Coulson trial couldn't be more of a contrast. Let's not forget: they bugged a murdered and raped little schoolgirl's phone here. You talk about a press free from government interference, but what has actually been happening is that the press is so powerful that it's controlling those who should be the elected representatives of the people and influencing their policies because they fear a backlash from the all-powerful media junta if they step out of line and threaten their vested interests. Journalists like to fancy themselves as 'crusading' yet the historical analogy could be apt in a totally different, unflattering way from the one that they have in mind. Just take a look at a history book and read about the damage that crusaders did as they rampaged through Europe and the near east and you'll find something that mirrors the more unsavoury realities of the mainstream press. You talk about the importance of freedom, yet what the press seems to want is freedom without responsibility - the very same cardinal sin that the right wing tabloids lay upon poorer, much less powerful people on benefits. The fact is, if the press has to be strictly regulated then it's the presses' own fault. They have shown that they cannot be trusted to behave decently and honourably. They have shown that they are liars. Yet even so, they needn't carry on bleating about how oppressed and persecuted they are as most political leaders are still terrified of them. That's why Ed Miliband's recent stand against them was so courageous - yes, it was mostly motivated against the fact that they attacked his beloved, deceased father. However, he'd also criticised the media a few weeks beforehand for the way that they persecuted Lucy Meadows and transsexuals in general - in fact becoming the first British party leader ever to even have the courage to mention the word 'transsexual'. Perhaps his heroic stance here was the very reason why they decided to gang up upon him? Katie Re-Registered

7:12pm Sun 8 Dec 13

Dai Rear says...

KRR this really isn't about people with mutilated genitals. I know you think everything in the world is, but it's not.
Of course MP's shouldn't get a massive pay increase. Of course the Chartists were barking; MP's shouldn't be paid at all. Candidates would swim in sh*t to be selected; they'd do it for nowt.
The press exposed greasy politicos stealing tax pounds as "expenses" (they're still at it, but fair play Diane Abbott is a shining example of appropriate behaviour here); so the press must be punished. Hence Press Regulation and R-v-Brooks & Brooks. And, no, KRR, listening to voicemails and reading emails isn't the worst crime in the world, just a bit grubby so don't get in a lather of self righteous Trotskyite fury about it.
KRR this really isn't about people with mutilated genitals. I know you think everything in the world is, but it's not. Of course MP's shouldn't get a massive pay increase. Of course the Chartists were barking; MP's shouldn't be paid at all. Candidates would swim in sh*t to be selected; they'd do it for nowt. The press exposed greasy politicos stealing tax pounds as "expenses" (they're still at it, but fair play Diane Abbott is a shining example of appropriate behaviour here); so the press must be punished. Hence Press Regulation and R-v-Brooks & Brooks. And, no, KRR, listening to voicemails and reading emails isn't the worst crime in the world, just a bit grubby so don't get in a lather of self righteous Trotskyite fury about it. Dai Rear

9:50am Mon 9 Dec 13

jaggededge says...

How much did Mandela spend on military hardware 38 billion? And still Soweto is a dump a few months ago in a south African paper ad for airline staff the end said whites need not apply racist?
How much did Mandela spend on military hardware 38 billion? And still Soweto is a dump a few months ago in a south African paper ad for airline staff the end said whites need not apply racist? jaggededge

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