Ke a leboha Modulasetulo. Ke rata ho qala ka ho dumedisa Maloko a Palamente ena. La pele, ha nke ke tshohle seo se builweng ke Mohlompehi Lee, eo e leng leloko la DA. [Thank you, Chairperson. I would like to greet Members of Parliament. Firstly, let me analyse what has been mentioned by hon Lee, who is a member of the DA.]
I think it is incorrect to say that our Constitution does not provide the support and protection for people of minority groups, because that is what you said. The Constitution is very clear in that it protects all South Africans and gives rights to all people of the country; the citizens. It is not correct to stand here and misguide the public by saying that the Constitution does not protect the rights of the minorities.
The other issue that I want to raise, which is very sharp and about which I am passionate, is that when you deal with the issues of Afrikaans, you have to understand where this country comes from. I grew up in Soweto as a black child. I understand the impact of Afrikaans being forced upon us as young people who wanted to be educated and being forced to learn a foreign language.
As much as we want the Afrikaans language to be recognised and be given the status that the Constitution protects, you have got to appreciate the past. You have to appreciate the impact of it on ordinary people, including ourselves. So, you have to listen, hon Lee, while I speak so that you can understand and appreciate where many of us grew up as young people wanting education. We were forced to learn up to a level that we did not understand, and which created a sense of inferiority within our society. You should not come here and underplay the impact of what Afrikaans did to us as black children who grew up in townships, especially being a child growing up in Soweto. [Applause.]
My focus area is specifically on the work that I do in the Inter- Parliamentary Union, IPU, being a rapporteur of the third Standing Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which is focused on the use of media, including social media, to enhance public engagement and democracy. This is linked to the main topic that we have to understand. Therefore, as we look into this, we look at the role that the media has to play and that it is currently playing in terms of providing and enhancing the role of public engagement and democracy.
The Hansard Society highlights two barriers to political and parliamentary engagements. These are a lack of knowledge about and interest in politics, and low participation and satisfaction levels. The Hansard Society submits that these barriers indicate that there is a lot that needs to be done by parliaments to improve levels of public knowledge about the institution. As such, continued improvement in the public engagement area is fundamental in the long term if the reputation of Parliament with the public is to be repaired and fostered in the future.
The rapid growth of information and communication technology, ICT, has changed the environment within which parliaments operate, particularly in the developed countries. However, due to the high cost associated with the use of ICT, traditional news sources, such as newspapers, radio and television, remain popular and influential information providers and points of connection between the public and parliaments. For instance, the IPU notes that radio broadcasting is the principle source of information in many parts of the world and many parliaments are effectively using it, particularly in Africa, the Pacific Islands and parts of Central Asia. Furthermore, according to the IPU, radio is often the only medium available to the vast majority living in rural areas where literacy levels are often low.
The traditional media can play a positive role in a political system if there is an environment that enables them to do so. Journalists need to be equipped with the appropriate skills for the level of in-depth reporting that a new democracy can benefit from. There should also be mechanisms in place to ensure that the media and journalists can be held accountable to the public through the explicit enforcement of ethical and professional standards. The independence of the media is essential and can be guaranteed if media organisations are financially viable, free from intervention, and operate in a competitive environment. The media should also be accessible to as many people in society as possible.
In addition, the media has been accused of sensationalism and superficiality, particularly because of the selection of stories that are covered and the way the information is presented to the general public. Despite this, the idea that the media can be a watchdog, a guardian of public interest, and a channel of communication between leaders and the people they govern remains firmly entrenched in many places across the globe. The concern still remains that traditional media can, for example write a front-page story which is factually not correct, and then later retract it in a small apology in the back of the newspaper. These are some of the things which we are still concerned about.
The media can assist us, especially in Parliament ...
... hore haholoholo re kgone ho bona mosebetsi oo re o etsang re le Maloko a Palamente. Hangata ha o sheba seo batho ba se buang kwana ka ntle o fumana hore batho ba bua hore Maloko a Palamente ntho eo ba e etsang ke ho fofela Kapa mona ba tlisa ho robala feela.
Menahano e jwalo ke eo e leng hore e etswa ke boqolotsi ... (Translation of Sesotho paragraphs follows.)
[... so that we, as Members of Parliament, can see the work that we are doing. In most cases what the people are saying out there is that all that Members of Parliament do is fly to Cape Town to come and sleep.
Such ideas are the ones made by the media ...]
... because most of the time, when you look at our work, it is not covered by the media. The fact that, most of the time, ordinary Members of Parliament arrive at eight o'clock in the morning and finish at eight o'clock in the evening is not covered. The majority of the work that is done in committees is not covered either, and that's why we have an entrenched perception that the majority of Members of Parliament come to Cape Town just to sleep.
This is why we are appealing to our media to assist us in ensuring that what we do as parliamentarians, committees, and the entire Parliament is accessible to all members of the public, so that they can be able to understand what we do.
The majority of the concerning issues that we need to raise is, for example, that you'll find the IFP marching to the SABC ...
... bathi akuvezwa lokhu okuthize kwe-IFP. Uma ubheka ezinye izinto okufanele siziphakamise... [... saying that certain things about the IFP are not broadcast. The other concern to be raised ...]
... is that, even while covering a sitting of the House, most of the time ...
... baba uMpontshane uthola ukuthi uma ubheka ngenkathi inkulumompikiswano iqeda ukuphela usuthi ubheka izindaba ebusuku awutholi lutho okushiwoyo ngamaLungu eqembu elibusayo. Konke okuvezwayo kumayelana namaqembu aphikisayo. (Translation of isiZulu paragraph follows.)
[... hon Mpontshane, you find that after the debate has been concluded and you are watching the evening news, nothing is being reported about the members of the ruling party. All they broadcast about is the opposition parties.]
It is about opposition parties. These are some of the concerns that we have. We have to look at these issues. What is the role of the media in terms of promoting participation and in terms of enhancing democracy?
At times you find the media taking a stand against the ruling party. That is not what the media is supposed to be doing. When we enhance democracy, the media is supposed to be objective and balanced in terms of their reporting, not to contest elections against the ANC. [Applause.] [Interjections.]
The term social media, as well, broadly refers to internet-based tools and services that allow users to engage with each other, generate content, distribute, as well as search for information online.
In recent years, there has been significant growth in the uptake and engagement with some of these platforms by African citizens due to improvements in infrastructure, the arrival of wireless access technologies, as well as lower tariffs. For example, the social network site Facebook has been widely adopted as a communicative tool across the African continent, with approximately 40 million registered users as of 31 March 2012. However, this number is low when compared with Europe, which stands at more than 200 million registered users, and Asia with more than 100 million users.
Blogging, including the micro-blog service Twitter launched in 2006, has also been embraced by African citizens. A study conducted by social media monitor Semiocast found that, as of July 2012, more than 300 million people used Twitter.
In many countries the various social media platforms outlined above play a key role in facilitating the interactive relationship between citizens and political representatives, as they allow citizens to engage with their political leaders at local and national levels.
There are a number of challenges that impede the usage of social platforms in facilitating political participation. These include distrust, socioeconomic conditions and institutional arrangements. In recent years there has been a growing distrust of these platforms by various autocratic regimes. Such regimes have blocked, censored and/or threatened to block or intercept the use of these platforms.
Online and mobile social media remain largely the tools of the metropolitan social elite and middle class population. The economically wealthy are usually the ones who enjoy access to these networks and have the skills to use them. For instance, when it comes to Internet usage, Africa has approximately 130 million users and a population of more than 1 billion, compared to more than 500 million users in Europe with a population of more than 800 million. So this is clearly visible in terms of how we can use the impact of social media.
In addition, what we need to be concerned about is that social media platforms are not regulated by any code of ethics, making it difficult for parliaments and members to identify and address attacks that are published via these platforms. Further, it can be difficult to prosecute individuals for making defamatory statements online, since many people use false identities on these platforms.
What is of greater concern is that there is no mechanism to restrict what is published.