Cabinet ministers will meet media representatives later this year to get to the root of growing tension between government and the media.
Cabinet ministers will meet media representatives later this year to get to the root of growing tension between government and the fourth estate, government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said on Thursday.
“There are planned engagements with media later in the year where Cabinet ministers will come and sit on the one side and media will sit on the other side and we will agree issues of mutual concern,” Manyi told Cabinet’s regular fortnightly media briefing.
Manyi said ministers wanted to “deal with this thing properly and not superficially” and address “systemic issues”.
“I think the sentiment in the Cabinet is that let’s really deal with the issues, let’s be frank with each other and ... not paper over cracks.
“I think it is the sentiment of Cabinet, that we need to sit down with each other, look each other in the eye and be honest with each other and say what is it that we need to fix to get this thing right for once and for all.”
His remarks come on the eve of a meeting between the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and Planning Minister Collins Chabane, who is responsible for the Government Communication and Information Service, which Manyi has headed since February.
Sanef requested the meeting after Manyi said comments by Mondli Makhanya, the editor-in-chief of Avusa newspapers and chairperson of Sanef, reflected “cartel-like tendencies” within the media. He lamented a lack of media diversity and said it led to “hostility” towards the government.
Manyi has had a difficult relationship with journalists, which took a turn for the worse in recent weeks after he announced the government would centralise its media advertising. He has dismissed reports interpreting the step as a threat to publications critical of the government as “a fiction”.
Manyi insisted on Thursday that tension with the media, which has deepened over the Protection of Information Bill and the ruling party’s plans to set up a tribunal to regulate reporting, predated his appointment.
“The issue of the relationship between government and media is an agenda item that predates Jimmy Manyi, so that must be very clear. It is a long-standing agenda item.
“The issue of this relationship goes back many years, many, many years, so Cabinet is saying we need to sit in a room and make sure that the matter is dealt with properly. We have to be frank with each other in those discussions and make sure that we come up with a product that is going to advance democracy.”
Manyi declined to say whether his comments on the media reflected his personal views or that of Cabinet.—Sapa