Beautifully articulated and embedded within the South African Bill of Rights lies the right to freedom of expression by individuals and by the press.
The Wits Vuvuzela students and staff acknowledge this right to freedom of expression, a right that has been fought for long and hard and reflects the essence of what it means to be part of a democratic society.
Student journalists write the articles and the paper is freely distributed within the university as well as some surrounding areas in Braamfontein.[pullquote align=”right”]”The Wits Vuvuzela welcomes criticism that is constructive and fair, that does not make outrageous claims or induce hate speech.”[/pullquote]
Last week Wits Vuvuzela received some negative criticism from a few disgruntled readers who made profound claims about the journalistic ethics of the paper. These criticisms were in response to an opinion piece called “Slice of Life”. The student journalist who wrote the piece said the SRC was misleading students with their Right2Protest campaign.
It must be noted that opinion pieces are clearly indicated and appear weekly in our paper. This is the opinion of an individual journalism student and is written fairly and honestly according to her observations.
Furthermore, it should be understood that student journalists who write the articles abide by a specific journalistic codes and ethics.
As stated in the Codes of Conduct for the South African Press and Broadcasting Complaints Commission, journalists have the responsibility to expose crime and serious misdemeanour, expose antisocial conduct and protect the health and safety of the public.
They should also prevent the public from being misled by some statement or action of an individual or organisation.
The code of conduct provides the golden standard for how we work and what we are taught to follow as journalists – as students and in future.
Student journalists gather information and are taught to report in a manner that is accurate and truthful. Where errors occur the newspaper corrects these and apologises.
Journalism lecturers provide student journalists with a platform to express ourselves; a space where we can let our creativity soar and form our own opinions.
It must be made clear that lecturers do not force their ideas or beliefs onto their students. If anything, they encourage students to disagree with them and to use their academic skills to form well-constructed arguments.
Sometimes people forget that as students we are trying to learn, practice and hone a craft and a profession. In doing so, we strive for balance, fairness, impartiality and broader notions of objectivity.
Notions of impartiality are so embedded in our consciousness that most of us wouldn’t have to think twice before exposing their own mother if she had committed fraud.
The university supports Wits Vuvuzela and recognises a free media is essential to academic freedom and democracy. It stimulates intellectual growth in a way that allows students and staff alike to grapple with various issues and effectively help stimulate a diverse market of ideas within the Wits community.
Just as we have the right to expression, so do our readers. The rights do also come with responsibilities. The Wits Vuvuzela welcomes criticism that is constructive and fair, that does not make outrageous claims or induce hate speech.