South Africa’s media needs to be protected, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Friday (13 September).
“The media helps to keep democracy alive, though they sometimes get it wrong,” she told an Association of Independent Publishers conference in Johannesburg.
“What a sad day it would be that corruption were to continue because there was no media to inform us of it. Let us protect the media.”
Madonsela said it was society’s duty to protect the independence of the media, and indicated that the media helped her office perform its core functions.
“The media is the most effective accountability mechanism, as in the world it watches closely over those that exercise power in public platforms.”
Madonsela’s comments follow remarks by President Jacob Zuma earlier this week on the political economy of the media and the role of the media in nation building and balanced reporting.
The president was speaking to second year journalism students from Tshwane University of Technology.
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.
The Presidency said that Zuma told the students to be “open-minded about the role of the media and the pressure it was under”, most notably when it came to balancing the role of media products as business enterprises that need to make a profit and the public’s right to know.
“The President’s view is that the profit motive influences content as media products need to sell in order to make money and warned journalists of the future to be mindful of this imperative against their role of informing the South African public in a balanced and truthful manner,” the Presidency said in a statement issued on Thursday (12 September).
“They have no place in a country where media freedom is enshrined as one of the cornerstones of our democracy,” the DA lead said.