Late last year South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced the possibility of a ban on alcohol advertisements. This sparked a lively debate between proponents and opponents, in which a central subject was who would be hit by such a measure, drinkers, drinks producers, marketing companies or the South African economy as a whole. This month a breakthrough seemed to have happened when the South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF) was reported to have said ‘that the media fully supports the proposed alcohol advertising ban’. However less then a week later this statement was withdrawn by SANEF. 

On the 13th of April quotes SANEF chairman Mondli Makhanya, saying: ‘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.’ However he was quick to add that SANEF is cautious about the proposal, warning against what he called ‘puritanical evangelism’, which ‘could turn South Africa into a society that tells its people: don’t do this, don’t do that’.

On the 19th of April reported the statement to be denied and corrected by SANEF, which instead will support the campaign against alcohol abuse, though not through a ban.

Shepherd Mpofu, of Wits University’s Department of Media Studies suggests that SANAF pulled back from their initial statement because of the loss of revenue that an advertising ban would create. He says ‘there is no logical reason why the media have to support a move that will have a negative consequence on them.’

While there may not be a logical reason, there certainly is an ethical reason according to worried people like Savera Kalideen, advocacy manager of a South African health promotion organization called the Soul City Institute. Kalideen is critical of both alcohol producers, advertising agencies and the media who, according to her, create a social norm that normalizes and glamorizes alcohol consumption and violate self-regulation codes. She is quoted on as saying: ‘Just recently, the South African Broadcasting Company put an alcohol advert in the middle of a Soul Buddy program. 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.’

While Kalideen underlines the importance of further restrictions, the future of the proposed advertising ban is still uncertain.

Sources: 14/01/11 13/04/11 19/04/11

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