South African journalism student: I’ve got the fire in me
SOCIETY – The South African students Angel Gail (21) and Philip Mokhunoane (23) are currently living in Mechelen, as part of an exchange program. It has always been their dream to study abroad. Even though the cold Belgian weather was a shock for them when they first arrived here a few weeks ago, they feel like they’ve already learned a lot about the country. 21bis had a chat with them about the South African media landscape, and education.
In their home country, the two study Language Practises, which includes subjects like media studies, journalism, translation and PR. Compared to the times of the Apartheid, Mokhunoane thinks that the freedom of press is in a good state. Newspapers are published in all 11 official languages. Independent papers can choose topics quite freely.
For newspapers, Gail believes that the way in which journalists tackle a subject is very important. ‘Children for example, are a sensitive topic. If you write about them in the wrong way, let’s say you write an article about abuse, the public can turn against you. Some people are very sensitive,’ she explains.
It’s also not easy to criticise the government. ‘After some former scandals the government threatened that they would start to control journalistic publications. I don´t think it is going to happen, but they definitely don´t take criticism lightly,’ Gail says. She also thinks that there are subjects that should be talked about more.
‘Our president buys luxury apartments, while at the same time poverty is a big problem in South Africa. But I think that journalists are too scared to do something about it. Every time somebody writes about the government’s corruption for example, the journalist drops the subject after the first publication. The government does everything to prevent bad publicity from happening by for instance blackmailing journalists. They are really good at digging dirt. If they don’t find shameful or incriminating facts about the journalist himself, they will find out things about his wife or other family members.’
Mokhunoane is afraid that the situation will affect his career choice. ‘I’ve got the fire in me to try and write about what’s going on in my country. But if I did that, it would not only affect me but also my family. That’s why I will probably do something different, maybe more in the entertainment business.’ Gail still thinks a change is necessary, and journalists can make a difference. ‘I think there must be a way! I would like to go into investigative journalism and make documentaries. Maybe I have to find a new independent medium for that.’
Text: Marie von Bell and Yasmien Vranken, Photos: Marie von Bell