Stop harassing the media -Zuma

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has condemned the intimidation, harassment and suppression of the media in the country.

Without mentioning names of structures or organisations using bullying tactics to intimidate journalists with certain allegations, Zuma said he was shocked by the alleged investigations to be conducted against the media.

"People must not harass the media. That is totally unacceptable. We condemn the investigations against journalists," he said, accepting his National Press Club 2009 Newsmaker of the Year award on Friday night.

This comes amid tensions between the media and the ANC Youth League that is accusing the press of a smear campaign against ANCYL president Julius Malema following media reports about Malema's alleged flamboyant lifestyle.

As a result, the Youth League hit back, threatening to go public with certain journalist's private information, such as financial status, salaries and sexual behaviour. However, Zuma said there should be a debate to look at how far the exercise of media freedom should go.

"How do we balance media freedom with the right of individuals, for example, the rights to human dignity and privacy?

"When does media freedom become tantamount to the harassment of an individual? Where do we draw the line? the president asked?

Zuma said these are some of the discussions that are lacking in the country, but which are necessary so that everyone understands each other's positions.

"I have been informed by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa that a meeting will take place between the ministry and the South African National Editors Forum to discuss working relations.

"The meeting should be able to find a solution," he said. This follows media reports alleging that Zuma's VIP protection unit harassed journalist trying to do their work.

He said it would also be helpful at some point to discuss with the media some of the news approaches that government feel would help the country to attract investments, grow the economy and achieve other developmental goals.

Zuma said, by so doing, government will not be seeking to interfere with editorial independence since they are mindful that editors are more inclined to lead with a story on a prominent person's lifestyle than the one that celebrates national achievements or encourages working towards achieving developmental goals.

National Press Club chairperson, Yusuf Abramjee asked Zuma to call to order individuals who seem to be intensifying their acts of intimidating journalists.

"As the National Press Club, we will continue to fight in protecting freedom of the press," he said