Goodbye SAPA and good riddance


THE apartheid-era press agency, equivalent in stature to the Soviet TASS and Pravda news organs is dead.

While not exactly a bastion of accuracy — SAPA once famously declared in the aftermath of the TRC process that Cliff Saunders (the apartheid’s own Lord Haw Haw) had been out of the country all along,  — this while he had been appearing in fortnightly propaganda segments demonising Joe Slovo as the devil incarnate, during the state of emergency.

The association did manage to cover some of the news, though, but never without its own unique bias and mendacity.

As it turned out, not all media outlets in South Africa were happy. The collapse of SAPA following the association’s failure to cover proceedings against Media24, especially the group’s failure to come clean at the TRC and now pending charges against the state for failure to prosecute the crime of apartheid, must come as a relief to the victims and survivors of the apartheid system.

Media24’s grand exercise in propaganda now stands out as a startling example of post-apartheid window-dressing, of what is, by all accounts, a gross failure to transform at the level of community news.

SAPA wasn’t only “not making money” and getting its knickers in a knot because of social media. The organ wasn’t making money because like Media24 it had ceased being a source of credible news and information.

Readers decided for themselves what the truth was because they had access to online media and no longer needed SAPA or Koos Bekker to tell them what to think.

The fiasco in which Media24 were copy-pasting content from Moneyweb (CAXTON) merely compounded the problem inherent to an organisation dependent on all the major players.

International outlets were also slow on the uptake, preferring Reuters to the troubled agency.

In a free and open society, the need for an “Eskom of Media” no longer appears appropriate.

One can only presume that a burial is necessary in order to chart a fresh start for the press in South Africa.

UPDATE: Independent News and Media’s online channel announced the formation of a news syndication service to operate in 15 African countries under the title African News Agency (ANA), the move comes amidst criticism surrounding issues of media ownership.

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