As journalists, the concept of freedom of speech is close to our hearts. We believe in the right of opinion and we make room on our various platforms for a wonderful variety of diverse voices.
However, this week we have done something we’ve never had to do before – police our social media platforms. The hate and the bile that has been spewed across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by what is usually an informed and engaged audience has been a shock to a team that has, until now, enjoyed the level and type of engagement that usually happens on our platforms.
This week has seen a shift. We posted last Sunday’s gorgeous picture spread of a lesbian couple on our Instagram and Facebook pages. We ended up having to play moderator because the homophobic and distasteful comments, as well as the attacks on the female body, were unprecedented, uncalled for and unwarranted.
Then the article about the violence in Pretoria’s CBD evoked a barrage of xenophobic comments. We deleted them, but they kept coming. This is not the South Africa that we envisioned, and it is certainly not the South Africa that is kept in check by the Constitution – that beautiful, all-encompassing document in which the foundations of this nation were built and are so beautifully set out.
The othering must stop. We know better than this. We have experienced this first-hand and are still trying to find our way out of the sinkhole apartheid threw us into.
We South Africans need to be better.