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Fri May 27 08:31:04 SAST 2016

Of course we'll talk about Mandela, but let's keep it honest

The Times Editorial | 27 June, 2013 00:54

The Times Editorial: THE continuing stay in hospital of our icon, Nelson Mandela, has tested to the limits our ability to tolerate being starved of information. With no regular updates from the government, and the media having to rely on the few comments of Mandela family members to build a narrative, South Africans have taken to the social media.

This conversation on the social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, has in some instances caused confusion and panic.

How many times have we read a posting that tells us of Mandela's demise?

Because there is no regulation of what is posted, we have become the victims of rumours and sometimes of outright lies.

Some will argue that it is the government's fault that people are being driven to seek the truth on social platforms, but they should remember that Mandela and his family have a right to privacy.

Our need to know should be balanced against the family's needs.

Though there are positives that can be attributed to the social media - consider the heartfelt messages of support for Mandela and his family posted by millions of ordinary people around the world, as well as by celebrities such as Rihanna and Hillary Clinton - it sometimes creates havoc.

The market we serve as the media demands that everything we publish is correct and we cannot be found wanting because of pressure from social platforms.

As the nation continues to pray for Mandela, discussions on Twitter should take into consideration the damage to the nation - and to the Mandela family - that will be caused if people are not responsible about what they post.

South Africa has no laws regulating what we write or say to our friends, but we do have a responsibility not to disseminate rumour as fact, especially when dealing with the life of another human being.

Let's celebrate Mandela responsibly as we chat to our friends on Twitter and Facebook.


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