Media do make mistakes from time to time, but the government’s attempts to silence and control media to correct this was unacceptable, said National Press Club (NPC) chairperson Yusuf Abramjee on Tuesday.
“The media do make mistakes from time to time, and we must ensure that accuracy and balance is maintained. But for the government to try to control us and silence us is totally unacceptable,” said Abramjee in a statement
He urged the government to engage the media fraternity on the controversial new media laws.
The NPC believed the Protection of Information Bill and the proposed media tribunal would instil a sense of intimidation among media professionals.
If these were instituted, this sense was bound to filter down to the rest of the country and erode the spirit of freedom that characterised South Africans in general, Abramjee said.
Abramjee acknowledged some shortcomings with the press ombudsman system, saying this office needed to be strengthened.
He said the censorship issue had serious implications for democracy.
Abramjee called on President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet to seriously rethink the implementation of the Bill and a media tribunal.
Abramjee said there was a strong need for government and media to sit and discuss the issue in depth.
The NPC’s deputy chairperson, Jos Charle, said South Africans were living in the information age, thereby urging government not move towards curbing the free flow of information.
“The media should continue to report freely without fear or favour, and those who feel aggrieved by what is reported must also have the right to approach legitimate bodies that are there to deal with public complaints,” said Charle.
He said these bodies must be further strengthened. — Sapa