For decades, the African National Congress (ANC) has championed freedom of the press, having played a major role in shaping the country`s Constitution, which protects press freedom, media diversity and freedom of expression, among other rights.
Due to our commitment to constitutional democracy, South Africa ranks among countries where journalists enjoy high freedom of the media. Addressing the South African National Editors` Forum Nat Nakasa Award dinner on 27 June 2009, ANC President Jacob Zuma reiterated the ANC`s position on press freedom. He said: “We seek reporting that is credible and honest and informative. We seek comment and analysis that challenges us and provides fresh insight into our world and the challenges we face.”
While the ANC will not deviate from ensuring an atmosphere of a vibrant diverse and free media in South Africa, it will equally challenge any abuse of this freedom. Abuse of media freedom is no different to the abuse of other freedoms protected by the Constitution. It is against this background that the ANC has noted with shock and dismay a well – orchestrated media plot by the Daily Dispatch at its “bosberaad” planning for 2015/16 year to tarnish Eastern Cape Premier and collapse Eastern Cape Provincial government. A document of the newspaper leaked to the ANC, includes several damning plans of the Daily Dispatch to spy on the ANC Eastern Cape Chairperson, Comrade Phumullo Masualle, further extract from the document, under a section, “The Opposition” reads, “Is there something that they are coming up with? Can we work with them?” obviously against the ANC and the ANC government.
The ANC rejects abuse of media power and in particular, the hidden oppositional party political agenda driven by some in the media under the cover of investigative journalism. The contents of the document in our possession should be condemned fearlessly as they do not represent the South Africa, we sought to build. This once again reveals to light our deep seated reservation about the commitment of Times Media Group and others within the existing media monopoly to the transformation agenda of this country. This type of journalism is tantamount to witch – hunt and a blatant departure from the norms and standards expected of media institutions of the stature of Daily Dispatch. This type of journalism has no place in our society as it only give the respected profession a bad name. It is totally in contrast to the principles enshrined in the professional ethics and the Press Code overseen by the Press Ombudsman. This behavior further confirms the trend of gutter and unethical journalism long identified by the ANC in the lead up to the 52nd ANC Conference held in Polokwane. This was further confirmed through the Press Freedom Commission led by the late Chief Justice Langa, established by the media itself. The recent judgements by the Press Ombudsman also speaks to the deterioration of standards in our media.
The ANC calls on media houses to do introspection on adherence to known media ethics that contribute to the developmental trajectory of our country. The ANC has never sought to muzzle the press, will never and does not intend to do so. All that it expects from the media, is factual, accurate and unbiased reporting, which does not border on sensationalism or defamation of character. Media must enjoy the freedom protected by our Constitution Act responsibly and be accountable. In addressing this unacceptable abuse of power by the fourth estate, the ANC will ensure that Parliament conducts an inquiry into the effectiveness of self and co-regulation and explore the desirability of establishing statutory independent regulation within the framework of the Constitution. The ANC will be seeking an urgent meeting with the SA National Editors Forum to discuss this matter.
Issued by Zizi Kodwa on behalf of ANC, Zizi Kodwa is ANC’s National Spokesperson