There are compulsive reasons why part of the media would continue painting a black picture of all that is happening in the country.
We get this kind of impression by the colouring it is giving every day to whatever actions are being taken by the government. There are problems no doubt, as it happens in every country. But good things are also happening. For example, despite a slowdown, the economy is continuing to post positive growth. Despite financial constraints, infrastructure continues to be extended. And there is still more to come in the pipeline on this count.
Why then does the concerned part of the media pick up only that which appears to it to be negative and not highlight the good things that are happening as well?
There are two reasons. First, competition within the media. Ventilating the bad news tends to increase audiences and circulation of individual media. This is commercially important. Second, certain members of the media operate with an inbuilt bias. They identify themselves with the opposition, especially if their preferred part of the opposition does not form part of the government. This factor reinforces circulation and audience while enhancing advertisement backing from trading houses.
It is not the intention to pin down the media which is justly critical of certain government actions when such criticism is justified. Nothing serves better a democracy than a vibrant and fearless media, which is fundamentally honest in its appreciation of government action. However, it has to be fair and not tainted with bias so that it ends up painting the picture black no matter how well the government performs. We have the impression that nothing will budge part of our media from the stance it has adopted to take to task the government for whatever it undertakes.
The amount of build-up this kind of biased reporting has created makes the concerned part of the media appear as if it has substituted itself for the opposition. This is not the role of the media.
Over years, the onslaught of biased reporting against every government initiative has blown out of proportions. This kind of selective reporting appears to have unsettled institutions of the country and even members of the government. Certain governmental departments and parastatals have actually exposed themselves and, along with them, the government itself, to a volley of criticism by miscarriage of their responsibilities. The media cannot be blamed for this.
Certain members of the government have been no less reckless. Instead of sorting out differences within, a few members have gone out to openly criticize public institutions forming part of the country’s governance structure. Some have taken positions which weaken the political leadership and undermine the respect it should command to be able to do its duty effectively. Others have, for sheer electoral reasons, sided with those who have tended to behave in defiance of the law. Actions of the sort are a direct disservice to good governance. But all this is also cannon fodder for the media keen to portray the government as inefficient.
This incongruity, combined with the perpetual onslaught by the biased media, has projected an overall image that politics is driven by all manner of blackmail. The perception has also been created that there is no real solidarity within the constituents of the government to carry through a programme which will the serve the interests of the country first and foremost and the best interests of the population at large.
The choices are clear. If the opposition were to make a breach due to the incongruities that are flashing out and managed to get itself elected to power by so doing, it would be exposed in turn to identical cleavages and instabilities. It would fail to deliver on an agenda which the country is badly in need of. Political parties have the alternative to depart from such a model of strife and instabilities, prioritize the national – as opposed to sectional – objectives to bring the country onto a higher but much needed platform for another phase of sustained development.
The lookout for a more stable government with unquestionable solidarities from its members should constitute the preferred choice if a premium is placed on the national interest rather than on simply winning elections. The work programme the country is asking for cannot be done by limping towards the goal with inherent instabilities in the governing structure. In view of the serious challenges inviting the country to reinvent itself, whether a new, coherent and fitting political configuration emerges will show the level of political maturity we are capable of. On it will the future of the country depend.
* Published in print edition on 20 December 2013