Censorship allows Fabricius’ to score own goal against Independent Paper Group

Could South Africa’s largest stable of newspapers, The Independent Group be party to willfully applying censorship by omission?

It’s an age-old question that has bedeviled media institutions thus by no means is the Independent Group a special exception. Yet, the stable which hosts well established brands such as The Star, Cape Times, Mercury and Pretoria News amongst others, has committed what many media pundits would readily agree to be an embarrassing faux pas.

This relates to its columnist Peter Fabricius’ malicious attack upon the NGO I belong to, the Media Review Network [MRN] and me.

In his column [published in the Pretoria News & Mercury on July 2, 2009] he refers readers to my response to an earlier column of his, giving readers an entirely false impression that my rebuttal of his contentious views was published in these papers, when in fact it was not.

The result is that Fabricius has exploited his position as a columnist by indulging in a hostile and provocative attack of my views without readers having the slightest idea of the arguments I advanced in refuting his earlier views.

The question, therefore, arises whether the editors of these publications will recognize and acknowledge that censoring my response to his column, while allowing him to indulge in bashing the MRN and myself is acceptable journalistic ethics?

Surely, readers are unfairly prejudiced as indeed I am if they remain in the dark about what my censored views were regarding Fabricius’ earlier column? How on earth are they expected to formulate their opinions in this one-sided debate?

Fabricius entire piece is devoted to rubbishing the MRN in what can best be described as demonizing. That his interpretation of my invisible arguments is itself subject to bias and hostility is regarded as a fundamental violation of our right to free speech that surely cannot be condoned.

While the subject of our dispute revolves on Iran and the recent elections, it also includes Palestine, Hamas, Hizbullah and South Africa’s foreign policy imperatives related to the apartheid Israeli regime.

Reflecting on Fabricius’ hateful column, I am reminded of Harold Pinter’s epic acceptance of his 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature, in which he referred to “a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.”

According to John Pilger, Pinter asked why “the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought” of Stalinist Russia were well known in the West while American imperial crimes were merely “superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged”.

He was referring to a great silence, unbroken by the incessant din of the media age, records Pilger. Across the world, the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant America. “But you wouldn’t know it,” said Pinter. “It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it never happened. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”

If my censored views had been published before Fabricius’ current column it would have explained why I regard his anti-Iran stance as reminiscent of a Rip van Winkle approach.

Our “notorious” reputation in the SA media as alleged by Fabricius is informed by our unrelenting commitment to challenge stereotyped caricatures of “dictators” and “terrorists” not favoured by the West and Israel.

After all even the Palestinian-born writer and scholar Edward Said was regarded as “notorious”. Shortly, before his death in 2002, he wrote, “The extermination of the Native Americans can be admitted, the morality of Hiroshima attacked, the national flag [of the United States] publicly committed to flames. But the systematic continuity of Israel’s 52-year [now 60] oppression and maltreatment of the Palestinians is virtually unmentionable, a narrative that has no permission to appear.”