The South African National Editor's Forum (SANEF) said this week that the media fully supports the proposed alcohol advertising ban, but at the same it warned against what it calls 'puritanical evangelism', a doctrine which it said amounts to banning everything in post-apartheid South Africa this week warned against what it calls 'puritanical evangelism', a doctrine which it says amounts to banning everything in post-apartheid South Africa. This was said with reference to the proposed alcohol advertising ban.
"We know the history of this republic, the hostels and the legacy of the past. This is the conversation we desperately need to have. We, as editors and media practitioners, are conscious of alcohol abuse and our commitment to fight this scourge is unquestionable," SANEF chairman Mondli Makhanya said, speaking at the Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg.
However, he said his organisation was cautious about the proposal, warning against puritanical evangelism, which he said could turn SA into a society that tells its people: don't do this, don't do that.
According to Makhanya, perhaps wary of the ANC-led government's litany of controversial laws - some of which emanate from the apartheid era - SANEF, which he said does not have a position in this matter, nevertheless supports Soul City's alcohol abuse initiatives the banning of alcohol advertising, which activists say plays a major role in promoting alcohol consumption.
As alcohol continues to leave a trail of destruction, road rage, domestic violence and death in SA, mostly in middle-income families, Soul City Institute marketing senior executive John Modimo Molefe urged the media - as partners and agents of change and influencers - to constantly engage the public on issues related to the negative impact of alcohol abuse in SA society.
More than 30 000 people die every year in SA from alcohol-related causes, and 4% of all global burden of disease and death is attributable to alcohol, which is worse than deaths caused by violence, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Particular concern about children and youth
The United Nations body also ranks alcohol as the third greatest risk factor for death and disability, expressing a particular concern about children and young people being exposed to the world of alcohol adverting and marketing.
As SA revisits its social and moral standing and contemplates banning alcohol advertising, Soul City Institute advocacy manager Savera Kalideen is accusing the media of standing by and doing nothing while advertising agencies and booze manufacturers create a social norm that normalises and glamorises alcohol consumption and violate the self-regulation codes (one such being not inducing people in an improper manner).
She said: "Just recently, the SABC put an alcohol advert in the middle of [a] Soul Buddy programme. There is no self-regulation happening there. But you, the media, you never say something about the industry breaking the codes. Who is going to protect the consumers? We need your help to do that."
Kalideen described the ad industry's claims - of simply creating brand loyalty, protecting the brand and not increasing consumption - as 'baseless'. She said her organisation, in partnership with government, media and other stakeholders, wishes to create an enabling environment to promote pro-health policy interventions, which include addressing the pervasiveness of alcohol.
"Alcohol is not an orange juice; it is a drug but a legal drug that has social acceptability," Kalideen said, pointing out that a quick look at the annual adspend on alcohol tells a 'horrible' story of alcohol consumption.
In 2009, alcohol annual adspend of companies such as SAB Miller, the world's second-largest beer manufacturer, amounted to about R364 million, while Brandhouse and Distell dished out R337 million and R305 million, respectively.
Furthermore, Makhanya said that, while the country was busy tackling the glamorisation of alcohol, efforts should also be made to enforce the legislation of under-age drinking properly. "Are we doing enough to police it?" he wondered.
The event was hosted by Soul City in collaboration with the Phuza Wize (drink wisely) campaign, SANEF and the Mail & Guardian.
Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to Bizcommunity.com as a senior news writer.
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