On Wednesday 18 October 1977, the iron fist of the apartheid government cracked down on the media. A number of newspapers were banned and several well-known journalists arrested. This date is marked every year as a warning.
However, a mere 43 years later, we are seeing the resurgence of an equally pernicious phenomenon. In mutated form and in the company of Covid-19, another virus is consuming the world, not just South Africa. Fake news spreads like wildfire across borders. By means of social media, in a matter of hours, whole populations can be bullied, manipulated and driven to mass panic or aggression. It allows no room for debate, argument or alternative opinions.
The only antidote is the availability of a wide spectrum of independent, thoughtful and unbiased media. In this country we should be proud to have produced some of the best investigative journalists to be found anywhere, who have been afforded the time and opportunity to dig into dark secrets and murky relationships, and untangle webs of corruption. The fact-based reports they have produced have helped uncover a sewer of crime at all levels of government and the private sector.
Unfortunately, with the economic implosion following lockdown, more and more publications were forced to close down, put up online firewalls or cut back on the size of their newsrooms. Hundreds of reporters have lost their jobs and been forced to join the breadline. Good journalists should not just entertain (although hopefully most do), but inform, ask questions, exercise our minds and hold powerful individuals and institutions to account.
All these factors are as relevant at community level, as they are at national level. There have been times during the past couple of months when The Village NEWS has barely been able to keep afloat and even now on a week-by-week basis we find ourselves living dangerously. However, the support of our readers never fails to give us hope that we will survive the twin pandemics of fake news and economic recession and continue to serve you with the trustworthy journalism you deserve.