President Jacob Zuma. CC image courtesy of the World Economic Forum.
South African President Jacob Zuma “welcomes the debate” spurred by his recent comments that the media covering negative news items is “unpatriotic”, maintaining that media content in South Africa is influenced by the “profit motive”.
HumanIPO reported yesterday on the controversy caused by Zuma, who told university students the media was not a government “watchdog” and reporting of negative news is “unpatriotic” behaviour, resulting in strong condemnation by opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA).
The Presidency today responded, saying media organisations must be sure to portray a balanced vision of the country and not concentrate on negative news.
“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.
Zuma added media owners have a “responsibility to ensure that their products reflected a balanced view of the country and not only negative news”.
According to the Presidency, the comments made regarding lack of patriotism in the media were actually reflecting on the pressure that the media is under to balance media-based business enterprises with the public’s right to information.
“Good news” has been a controversial topic in South Africa in recent weeks after Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) chief operating officer (COO), called for 70 per cent of news broadcast in the corporation’s bulletins to be positive.
The DA responded by writing to Ellen Tshabalala, chairperson of the SABC interim board, to request this policy be disavowed by the state broadcaster.