A lot has happened since we met in August 2017 to talk ‚Äď the #GuptaLeaks, the world of media under pressure, and society in turmoil. The year that has passed will one day soon most likely be seen as one of the most consequential in South African history. It was also a year in which media played a central role in guarding the country and its people. So… we‚Äôre gathering again on 15 August. You really should not miss it.
I‚Äôm sitting in a coffee shop in Zlatibor, a magic mountain smack in the middle of Serbia, some 9,000km from home in Cape Town. It‚Äôs peak summer season: two couples to my right are engaged in deep conversation about local politics while drinking strong black ‚ÄúTurkish‚ÄĚ coffees and chain-smoking.
We‚Äôre indoors, of course.
Next to them, three friends are engaged in an intense conversation. One of them is a famous Serbian poet ‚Äď people are waving to him, saying their hi‚Äôs and thank you‚Äôs for the lifetime of poetry. He was great, a long time ago. Powerful. His poems were national events, sculpted in a beautiful, ancient Serbian language that is these days all but forgotten under the assault of riyality tivi and tabloid Mafia. The poems were memorised by thousands, recited at the diners ‚Äď they affected the nation‚Äôs mood, but many times they reflected the nation‚Äôs mood too.
The poet‚Äôs now pushing 80, but still looking his unmistakable self. A young man, looking like a hipster, has just asked him to sign a book of the poems.
‚ÄúSign it for Dragan, please,‚ÄĚ the young man asks. The Poet dutifully complies.
He was a national treasure in times better than these for this god-forsaken country. But Serbia‚Äôs story is eerily similar to what happened to the entire western civilisation too.
One can try hard to analyse the facts about why some other times felt better than our current ones. Maybe we were just younger and not well informed. Maybe we trusted the system, and the leaders, and the public figures, and their stories.
One thing, though, was inescapable: we trusted.
More than anything, we trusted the media. How many times we‚Äôve said I read it in the media, as proof of the statement‚Äôs veracity. Or, I saw it on TV as definite confirmation of something actually happening. Or I just heard it on the radio as a warning of something massively consequential coming our way.
Yes. We‚Ä¶ trusted.
Perhaps the greatest collateral damage to the weaponisation of media through the internet‚Äôs ubiquity, social media and paid-for publications masquerading as news, is the demise of trust.
But how can we even think of having an experience called life without trusting: our family, our friends, our leaders‚Ä¶ our media too?
Yeah, this is the time of the year when we gather to talk about what we preach and what we, as the news media of these turbulent days, fight for.
A lot has happened since we met in August 2017 to talk the #GuptaLeaks, the world of media under pressure and society in turmoil. The year that has passed will one day soon be seen as one of the most consequential in South African history. It was also a year in which media played a central role in guarding the country and its people.
Twelve months later, South Africa is undeniably in a much better place. And yet, the democracy, in a country as finely poised as ours, is under massive pressure. We‚Äôre but a few wrong steps away from the cliff. We cannot allow ourselves to drop our collective guard, or have a single day of rest in this all-consuming battle for faith, trust and belief in the media.
This year‚Äôs Media Gathering will once again present a dizzying array of incredible, interesting and influential individuals. Some of them we will have difficulty agreeing with, sometimes over basic issues, but we will nevertheless afford them a platform to present their views. Our views are worth nothing if they can‚Äôt withstand a debate, no matter how vigorous.
We will also launch our Membership Club at the Gathering ‚Äď Daily Maverick‚Äôs solution for the paywall-free future of the news media.
For the first time ever, you will have an opportunity to hear from the true heroes of the #GuptaLeaks saga, the people who supplied us with the original information at great risk to their safety and future. They are not yet ready to reveal their identities, but it will be fascinating to hear from them and about their lives after the big news broke. Truly captivating.
Talking about captivating, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is currently in SA on BRICS business, a powerful strongman of that giant country. And yet, many don‚Äôt know that the 2002 Gujarati Massacre happened under his watch ‚Äď more than a thousand Muslims were killed by Hindu mobs. In 2010, investigative journalist Rana Ayyub spent eight months under cover in that province. In her keynote speech at The Gathering, she will share some of the truths she uncovered ‚Äď it will horrify you. Rana will be in conversation with Richard Poplak.
The doyen of SA journalism, Ferial Haffajee, will chair the panel that will delve deep into the relationship of business and the media, the financial and moral side of it. She will share the stage with Steve Nathan (10X investments), Mzwanele Manyi (Afrotone Media Holdings), and Adrian Lackay (PIC, formerly SARS).
The politics and media. The politics of the media. Lindiwe Mazibuko will moderate the panel with Patricia de Lille, Phumzile van Damme, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and Nqabayomzi Kwankwa. Fireworks? Funny you should ask.
The post-#GuptaLeaks world ‚Äď we gather the country‚Äôs top editors to talk what‚Äôs next for South Africa AND journalism itself. Mahlatse Mahlase (SANEF), Stefaans Brummer (amaBhungane), Adrian Basson (News24) and Mondli Makhanya (City Press) will be in discussion with Stephen Grootes.
Our investigative media universe greatly depends upon The Whistle-blowers‚Äô World, their unbelievable courage and commitment. Rebecca Davis will talk to Suzanne Daniels (ex-Eskom) and Bianca Godson (ex-Trillian) about these, as well as life after the truth was exposed (not for the sissies) with expert help from Jessica Bezuidenhout (Daily Maverick Scorpio) and Gabriella Razzano from the Open Democracy Advice Centre.
Come to think of it, for the last 25 years, Zapiro has been perhaps one of the most incisive journalists in South Africa, in addition to being the country‚Äôs global class cartoonist. His presentation will never leave you cold ‚Äď or the coffee is on us. Zapiro will be introduced by another sage of our profession, Marianne Thamm.
Tannie Evita will be there too ‚Äď we‚Äôre so looking forward to having her enlighten our stage.
And don‚Äôt forget, John Vlismas will mind the shop again ‚Äď he is The Gathering‚Äôs true soul.
Okay, so much from me this time.
See you at The Gathering. It will be a crime if you miss it.
And don‚Äôt worry, if I haven‚Äôt convinced you‚Ä¶ It‚Äôs Not You, It‚Äôs Me. DM