President Jacob Zuma has pinned his colours to the mast in the debate about media regulation in South Africa.
“I have observed and have been following the debate on the ANC proposal to have parliament investigate the desirability of establishing the Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) with keen interest. I must state from the onset that I am astounded by the commentaries and opinion pieces written by some within the media fraternity and within the society broadly, in reaction to this important debate. Some suggest that the establishment of the MAT is meant to settle scores. Others still suggest that this is an attempt by the ruling party to control and bulldoze the media using the tactics of apartheid regime,” he said in a letter on the ANC Today website.
Zuma argues that freedom of expression should not be elevated above other constitutionally guaranteed rights, such as the rights to privacy and to dignity.
But there is a subtext to his letter which seems to suggest that the media should be reflecting the ANC’s agenda. This seems to be the nub of his argument:
“Our contention is that the ANC does not, and will never pose any threat to media freedom. The media must seriously conduct an introspection and open a constructive debate about the role of this institution in a post-apartheid South Africa. Is the media a mirror of South African society? Is it in touch with what the majority of South Africans feel and think? Does this institution actually know and understand South Africans? Why was it surprised by the explosion of national pride during the Soccer World Cup tournament? Why did South Africans decide to rise above the daily diet of negativity and defeatism that they are fed daily in the media?
“What is the impact of ownership on content and staffing? What is the ideological outlook of the media? Is there an alienation with the post-apartheid democratic order and thinking? Are we on the same wavelength regarding where South Africa should go politically, socially and economically? Does the media understand this well enough to articulate it to South Africans, to enable to accurately judge government action and performance?”
The ANC is certainly keeping the pressure up as Zuma, wearing his president-of-the-country hat, prepares for a summit with newspaper owners and editors sometime around the end of August.
Jeremy Cronin, deputy general secretary of the SACP, has also defended the idea of a media tribunal on Umsebenzi Online .
Here is Zuma’s full letter:
With all due respect to the writer, the South African press is just too white. It only represents the views of white minority which in most cases are negative.
Have you ever wondered why in every election since 1994, the South African media have predicted a small majority for ANC? It is because they only listen to the white minority which mostly support the DA.
The world gets its views of Africa from South Africa. In fact most of the world media is embedded in the South African press. If the South African press is too white and too negative, I am not sure the world will have a good view of Africa.
The media must be reformed. This is last bastion of apartheid.
Do the people support these mediums? Don’t buy the newspapers, magazines…etc
Those of us in America can sympathize with you. Our media is too Jewish. Israeli interests are put ahead of American interests.
Just who will be ‘protecting’ individual rights,will the tribunal’s decision be binding,or will the media have recourse to the courts?