SA govt’s move towards newspapers under fire

MUMBAI: The South African government’s plan to allocate R1 billion to bribe newspapers to publish only its view of news and affairs has come in for a lot of flak from the SA National Editors‘ Forum (Sanef).

The Forum said that it condemned the plan to allocate the budget in a way which favoured newspapers which assisted the government "in getting its message across" and which "told the truth about service delivery." This meant newspapers would be bribed to become government propagandists or mouthpieces, Sanef said in a statement.

"This would be a serious offence against the freedom of the media clause in the Constitution, which the government has sworn to uphold. Freedom means liberty and particularly conduct where financial inducement or threat plays no part," it added.  
  Last Thursday while announcing the plan, government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi had reportedly appealed to the media to not only criticise but report on important information which South Africans deserved to know. He voiced concern that some media organisations criticised information from the government instead of reporting it to the public.

While the government welcomed media criticism, it was also important for the media to "pass on" government information, especially on service delivery, he averred. "We have content, please pass it on ... Government is serious about information getting to the people, we don‘t apologise about that," Manyi added.

Sanef said journalists and newspaper managements would view with "abhorrence" this attempt to coerce the press that would contravene the Press Code of Conduct and the Advertising Standards Authority‘s rules.

The plan ignored the consequences for the government‘s reputation overseas, especially among investors, and that of the news media, which was highly regarded internationally, Sanef felt.

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