Afro Worldview Closure Is An Assault On Press Freedom

Afro Worldview promised to be a breath of fresh air after Mzwanele Manyi rebranded the news media after taking it over from the Guptas' ANN7. PICTURE: IOL

Afro Worldview’s editorial approach, which was often characterized as compromised and biased, seems on the surface to have led to the early demise of the channel, and yet behind the scenes, the move reeks strongly of political motivation, writes SIMBARASHE NYATSANZA

On 21 of August 2018 Afro Worldview, formerly known as African News Network or ANN7’s contract with MultiChoice, DSTV’s parent company, came to an end. This led to the channel being effectively taken off air leaving hundreds of staff uncertain about their professional futures, and the country in shock at what appears to be part of a systematic thwarting of black and alternative opinion.

Afro Worldview’s editorial approach, which was often characterized as compromised and biased, seems on the surface to have led to the early demise of the channel, and yet behind the scenes, the move reeks strongly of political motivation.

The channel’s previous ownership, the Guptas, whom in the recent past have been marred by a myriad of allegations, including that of state capture, seems to have provided the impetus required to close the channel and legitimize the jeopardization of the livelihoods formerly dependent on Afro Worldview.

It is worth mentioning that Afro Worldview’s sister publication, Afro Voice (formerly New Age), was also closed two months ago.

Essentially we are looking at a situation in which anybody providing a narrative contrary to the state-sanctioned ‘rainbow nation’ dogma which has created the mesmerizing illusion of freedom and equality in South Africa is being dealt with ruthlessly.

This in itself is a gross infringement into the freedom of the press, and the free circulation of information. MultiChoice in this manner is complicit in the creation and promotion of a single story with the intention of establishing a firm influence on public opinion.

DSTV is owned by Naspers through its subsidiary MultiChoice. Naspers was formed in 1915 by National Party politician J.B.M Hertzog and his associates as a company that prints and publishes newspapers and magazines for the sole purpose of propagating Afrikaner Nationalism.

The Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger under the editorship of theologian D.F Malan was Naspers’ first venture. Over time the company gained prominence for reflecting the concerns behind Afrikaner nationalism, going on to become a major media conglomerate with subsidiaries in print media, internet, and TV medium. Some of the companies owned by Naspers include but are definitely not limited to Media24, OLX, M-Net, Takealot Online, Property24, Allegro and many others within and out of the media fraternity.

It comes off as no surprise for a company that was premised on the endangerment of the Afrikaner to frustrate attempts at trying to maintain a platform for raw and unfiltered opinions, considerations, and debates from groups previously oppressed under apartheid, a system former-Media24 employees admitted to ‘helping to keep in place’ through churning out propaganda and disinformation.

It just goes on to show the kind of lengths people are willing to go to protect what they feel is rightfully theirs, even if it means subtly subverting truths, promoting biased reporting and self-censorship. In 2018 it has taken mere association with the commercial media-christened ‘state-capturers’ to shut down what was beginning to gain relevance as a credible news and opinion platform.

The South African National Editors Forum’s condemnation of the closure of Afro Worldview is an inadequate response to the limiting of free expression and abuse of the alternative media by larger companies motivated to silence so-called subversive voices.

It should be a prerogative for SANEF to protect press freedom in all its forms, and to foster the creation of majority-owned media platforms. If the black majority was in charge of telling its own story, these kinds of problems would have been encountered minimally.

  • Nyatsanza is a Shona features and opinions editor at Vernac News. This article first appeared in the Vernac News