The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on President Jacob Zuma to retract “problematic” remarks he made over the reporting of negative news in the country.
The DA was responding to comments made by the president at the Tshwane University of Technology on Tuesday (11 September).
An article in the Mail & Guardian, cited Zuma as saying: “…When I am in South Africa, every morning you feel like you must leave this country because the reporting concentrates on the opposite of the positive.”
Zuma said that the media did not tell the story of how government had moved the country away from an apartheid system, and turned it into a vibrant democracy.
According to the Mail and Guardian, Zuma referred the group of journalism students at the university to a case of “patriotic reporting” in Mexico where the media did not report on crime because it was patriotic and wanted to market the country.
Zuma said that the media claimed the position of watchdog, “they were never elected”.
“Media is a business, it’s not what it says – a watchdog, it’s a business, they are doing business. The paper must sell, if the sales go down because the editor isn’t doing well, he’ll be dismissed,” the president said.
“Who do you think in reality you serve when reporting; the interest of the public that you claim, as the media you stand for, or the interest of the owners and managers of the paper?” Zuma said.
Lindiwe Mazibuko, DA Parliamentary Leader said that she would write to President Zuma to request that he retract these problematic remarks without delay.
“They have no place in a country where media freedom is enshrined as one of the cornerstones of our democracy,” the DA lead said.
The DA said that Zuma’s remarks also point to a deeper problem within the ANC.
“There has been a growing trend under the Zuma administration to label anyone who tries to hold the government to account as ‘unpatriotic’,” Mazibuko said.
“The role of an independent media is critical in a constitutional democracy,” the DA said.
President Zuma should be less concerned about an “unpatriotic” media and more concerned with the quality of his own delivery in office. “Good news” will only ever come from good governance,” Mazibuko said.
The Transvaal Agricultural Union (Tau-SA) also hit out a Zuma’s comments, stating that the media has a duty to report on the facts of every story, Sapa reported.
“Once the facts and realities addressed are positive, reporting will get positive, and Tau-SA will be the first to applaud such a situation,” union president Louis Meintjies said in a statement.
“…It will be difficult for any journalist to report positively about negative events. No journalist can report positively about a violent strike, to readers, listeners or viewers.”
Meintjies said it was not possible to write a positive story on farm murders, adding that while he agreed that SA needed more positive news, the negative news stemmed largely from government.