The farming community is up in arms over some media organisations allegedly fuelling racial hatred against white farmers. The latest incident took place earlier this month when Phalaphala FM, an SABC station for tshiVenda listeners, blamed the death of a pedestrian on a white farmer in the area, claiming that it was a deliberate hit-and-run incident. “It is unacceptable that a journalist can send such rumours into the world without checking his facts. Especially in a case where a life has been lost, you need to double-check your facts. In this instance not even the police have clarity over what really happened,” said Dries Joubert, chairperson of TAU SA North. Some reports say the man succumbed to cut wounds caused by a panga. He said the report was sloppy journalism and that the journalist responsible turned a tragic event into an uncalled-for racial campaign.
Joubert said they would ask the Human Rights Commission and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission to investigate the complaints. Prof Lizette Rabe of the Journalism Department at the University of Stellenbosch said in cases like these, the onus rests on all journalists to return to the ethics codes. “They have to look closely at what is said about race, especially in such a newsworthy instance where various races are involved. Just as one can’t make out every black person to be a murderer and a rapist, not every white farmer is a racist.” She said where the agricultural sphere is concerned, the media have to be extra careful due to the mounds of baggage already attached to it. “There is already a negative connotation attached, one has to be very careful not to allow politicking to take over. You have to be responsible with the facts at hand.” – Cornelia du Plooy