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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


WASSERMAN, Herman. We're not all like that: Freedom of speech and the denial of racism. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2009, vol.49, n.1, pp.111-130. ISSN 2224-7912.

The Afrikaans news media, who during the apartheid years largely served as legitimising institutions for apartheid, had to undergo significant repositioning to adapt to the changing democratic political and social environment after apartheid. This repositioning coincided with a liberal consensus in the news media in general, according to which individual rights, independence of the media, and freedom of speech were emphasised. At the same time, the Afrikaans media attempted to retain the loyalty of primarily white Afrikaans readers while having to acknowledge the new majority government in the country and to orientate itself in relation to the new centres of political power. This normative framework influenced the way in which cultural identity was constructed in news discourses, namely linked to individual rights, freedom of expression, and situated in a freemarket society. A recent example of a news discourse that brings to light the Afrikaans media's understanding of these normative values, is the coverage that was given to an incident on the campus of the University of the Free State where students filmed a racist ritual to initiate cleaning staff at a university residence. This article seeks to explore editorial comment on the incident in selected Afrikaans media to indicate how the event was interpreted and presented as an individual transgression rather than a systemic and historically-determined problem.

Keywords : Afrikaans media; cultural identity; ethical codes; freedom of speech; news media; racism; racist video; Reitz Four; University of the Free State.

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