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The Media Inquiry Reports of the South African Human Rights Commission: A Critique

Daryl Glaser
African Affairs
Vol. 99, No. 396 (Jul., 2000), pp. 373-393
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/723947
Page Count: 21
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The Media Inquiry Reports of the South African Human Rights Commission: A Critique
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Abstract

This article critically assesses the intellectual basis of the South African Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC) inquiry into racism in the media. Several reports issued by the Commission, two of them compiled by 'independent' researchers, formed the backdrop to a controversial attempt by the SAHRC to dragoon South African editors into appearing before a public hearing to account for their approach to dealing with race issues. The reports are methodologically flawed in various ways that undermine confidence in their pronouncements on subliminal racism. More importantly, they provide an interesting illustration of what can happen when intellectual activity is placed in the service of repressive state power. Cultural studies analysis, which in some contexts can play a critical and democratic role, is especially dangerous when offered (as it effectively is by SAHRC researchers) as a tool for state surveillance. This is the more so when its practitioners, and those they serve in the state, proceed from an impoverished understanding of freedom of expression.

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