President Jacob Zuma says that his call for more patriotic coverage of news was a general call to all media, not to the SABC specifically.
The president said that in ensuring balance and fairness, journalists should put the country first before any other consideration.
The president was responding to a parliamentary question by Cope MP Leonard Ramatlakane, on whether government intends to establish the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as the leading broadcaster in patriotic reporting.
It follows a call from the SABC’s acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, for 70% of the news stories aired by the public broadcaster to be positive.
“No, the call for more patriotic coverage of news was a general call to all media, not to the SABC specifically,” Zuma said in his response to Ramatlakane.
And when questioned on whether broadcasting patriotic news fulfills the criteria for objectivity and balance in journalism, Zuma said: “Broadcasting patriotic news, objectivity and balance are not mutually exclusive.”
“The coverage of news in a more patriotic manner does not mean that journalists should not report in an objective and balanced manner. It means ensuring balance and fairness and putting the country first before any other consideration,” the president said.
“The call for a more patriotic style of journalism cannot be interpreted as an attempt to interfere with editorial independence. Covering stories exposing corruption for example, in a balanced and fair manner, could also count as patriotism.”
“Balance and fairness are the hallmarks of good journalism. The Presidency, in making the call for a more patriotic style of journalism, does not intend to undermine those principles.”
“It is a call to the media to cover all sides of the South African story and ensure that a balanced and fuller picture emerges of the country and its achievements as well as challenges,” Zuma said.
Zuma was clarifying his recent statements calling for more “patriotic” news coverage while addressing Tshwane University of Technology journalism students last month.
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.