The Citizen was among the first websites yesterday to report on EWN journalist Barry Bateman trending because he happened to call EFF leader Julius Malema a naughty word.
We reported it not because we wanted Bateman to get into trouble, but because we thought the incident was quite hilarious, and made for a good story in our ‘Eish!’ category.
Personally, I didn’t think Bateman would get into trouble. He was caught giving an honest reaction to an encounter he’d just had with one of the most obnoxious and toxic human beings in the history of politics in South Africa. I was sure his employer, EWN, would simply ignore whatever outrage anyone was trying to drum up on Twitter, secure in the knowledge that the Twitter horde would find the next thing to be outraged about tomorrow. It always does.
Hopefully his bosses won’t punish him and he won’t lose his job for this. That would be tragic.
Calling Malema a “p**s” was probably bang on the money at that point anyway, and hardly surprising considering how Malema had moments earlier patronisingly referred to Bateman as his “Boet”.
If Malema can dish it out so freely (and he dishes out a lot), he should be only too willing to receive it.
Bateman didn’t intend for the whole world to see him venting about it right there. He’d switched off his own recorder, and rightly assumed that the cameras at Newsroom Afrika had also stopped rolling, or at least cut back to studio. So it was his private opinion, and we’re all entitled to those. We’re also all entitled to call people we don’t like whatever we want. There’s no law against name calling or insults in this country, as I’m sure even a casual glance at what Malema has called numerous people will testify to.
We aren’t playing a game of test cricket here. This is life. And if anyone is wondering why a journalist in this country may lack some respect for the honourable “Commander in Chief”, well … they haven’t been paying close attention, have they?
I would love to extend the opportunity to Barry to expound on why he may think Malema is worthy of the slur. No doubt it would be a great read.
In my humble opinion, his employer, EWN, has had no business cravenly apologising for nothing more than a comical gaffe by one of the best reporters South Africa has had for the past 10 years.
The EFF has in any case rejected the apology, didn’t want it anyway, and loves the current attention because it ties in to their desperation to always portray themselves as the innocent victims of “the media”.
One cannot be cowed into submission by the EFF just because, when they get angry, they go on the rampage and leave things broken and looted, as H&M and other examples have showed us. It’s precisely because they do that that we need to be bolder and stand up to them even more.