MEDIA STATEMENT: MDDA RECONFIRMS ITS COMMITMENT TO LANGUAGE DIVERSITY
Johannesburg, South Africa, 21 February 2019. In celebration of International Mother Tongue Language Day 2019 (21 February), the Media Development & Diversity Agency (MDDA) reaffirms its commitment today to supporting the growth of a robust, vibrant and sustainable community media sector through which the usage and status of the rich diversity of indigenous languages in South Africa are elevated and promoted.
“With 2019 also being the International Year of Indigenous Languages, as proclaimed by UNESCO, we hope that increased spotlight will be placed on indigenous languages and the critical role they play in fostering unique local cultures, customs and values which have endured for centuries. Without them, South Africa would be a far poorer place,” says Zukiswa Potye, MDDA Acting CEO.
Established by an Act of Parliament in 2002 (MDDA Act No 14 of 2002), the mandate of the MDDA specifically includes the provision to “Encourage ownership and control of, and access to, media by historically disadvantaged communities as well as by historically diminished indigenous language and cultural groups.” As a result, in its funding support of community and small commercial media projects, the MDDA applies a stringent set of criteria in order to identify those projects whose priority is to change material conditions in provinces and communities plagued by social and economic inequalities. In such circumstances, the broadcast or publishing language of the project is a key criterion as media in the language(s) of the community serves as a powerful platform to raise awareness around such issues and to increase access by communities to information.
Recently approved MDDA beneficiary projects illustrate how the community media sector, with the support of the MDDA, is delivering on this principle. Community media projects approved by the MDDA Board for funding in 2018 range from Isajonisi Youth Radio, licensed to broadcast in Port St. Johns Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape Province and broadcasting in 70% Isimpondo, 20% IsiXhosa and 10% English; to Mmaiseng News, a small commercial newspaper, which distributes to the Frances Baard District Municipality in the Northern Cape, and publishes in 50 % Tswana, 40% English and 10 % other languages (Sesotho and IsiXhosa).
The MDDA is a statutory development agency, deriving its mandate, from Section 16 and 32 of the Constitution Act No. 108 of 1996, thereby providing for freedom of expression and access to information. As a partnership between the South African Government and major print and broadcasting companies, it promotes and assists in the development of community media and small commercial media in South Africa and the transformation of the media, by providing support (financial, capacity building, etc.) in terms of the MDDA Act No 14 of 2002. It also aims to raise public awareness with regard to media development and diversity issues, and to encourage media literacy and a culture of reading. For further information: www.mdda.org.za
Slow media transformation under spotlight
The slow pace of transformation within the media topped the agenda of Media Freedom Day celebrations in Parliament on Friday.
Several media institutions and leading figures had gathered to commemorate the 36th anniversary of Black Wednesday. On that day, October 19th 1977, the then Apartheid government had clamped down on a number of Black journalists and publications.
Current South African press ombudsman Joe Thloloe was one of many arrested by apartheid police as part of a large move to repress black journalist and close down black newspaper.