News By Commission Or Omission?

The complete failure of the Mercury (April 24) to publish a single word about the largest gathering ever to take place in the Southern Hemisphere ranks as a new low in the direction the paper appears to be taking since it was acquired by the Sekunjalo company.

The fact that between 500,000 and one million people of all races and political stripes were motivated to travel to Bloemfontein to participate prayerfully for the future of the country was a major event deserving of prominent front-page coverage.

The Mercury’s complete omission of this highly significant event is deplorable, slight exacerbated by the choice of a soft, starry-eyed story about an urban renewal project which, like others, the city routinely propagates, ends up gathering dust.

The other significant omission from the April 24 Mercury is the fact that the Sekunjalo-owned newspapers have resigned from the Press Council of South Africa and will, instead, have their own in-house press council.

If that news is correct, as reported by News 24, then it means that the ideological location of the Mercury and its sister papers has been further tightened. Put another way, control of the mainstream English press in this country is now subject to guidelines that are more stringent than those laid down by the Nat government in the 1970s and 1980s because Sekunjalo is an open and active ally of the ANC whereas until 1985, the private Robinson family had majority control of the Mercury.

In any case, why was the Press Council story omitted?

If the Times Media or Caxton had left the Press Council, Dr Surve and his minions would have had much to say.

The fact that the first three pages of the April 24 Mercury edition are filled with in-house ANC manoeuvres shows clearly that the Mercury is now commissioned to prioritise blow-by-blow accounts of the ANC’s dirty laundry. And as if that was not enough, a large op-ed piece by a Western Cape ANC comrade adorns the so-called News and Analysis page.

Quo Vadis, the Mercury?

Sent into The Mercury and published 27 April 2017.

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