Addressing a group of visiting journalism students at Parliament on Tuesday, Zuma said South Africa could benefit from more "patriotic reporting", which he had come across while on a visit to Mexico as deputy president.
Zuma told the group that his delegation had been warned not to go to certain areas because of high crime levels. When he questioned why he had not heard about this in the media, he said he was told that Mexican patriots wanted the country to succeed and so did not "wash [their] dirty laundry in public".
He said the South African media's reporting was so negative that he sometimes felt like fleeing the country.
Patriotism or censorship
Zuma must be unaware that Mexico has been described as one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists.
Reporters Without Borders describes Mexico as a country where journalists are threatened and murdered by organised crime or corrupt officials with impunity.
"The resulting climate of fear leads to self-censorship and undermines freedom of information," it said.
The organisation said, in the past decade a total of 87 journalists have been killed in the country, while 17 others have disappeared. A further 26 journalists have fled their homes or their country for fear of losing their lives.
Press freedom is so lacking in Mexico that it currently sits at position 153 out of 179 on the Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index, having dropped four places since last year.
South Africa in contrast has a "respectable ranking" of 52nd, even though it dropped 10 positions since last year.
Reporting beyond borders
Zuma may have been unaware of Mexico’s crime problem, but it has not escaped the notice of the international press.
Crime and corruption are globally recognised as among the country's most key concerns.
Last year, a Time magazine report described corruption as "the heart of crime" in the country and one of the foremost challenges facing the incoming president. And the Economist, the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, Harper’s Magazine, Slate and the Rolling Stone are just some of the large media organisations, which have dedicated time and resources to get behind the story of Mexico's rampant crime epidemic. While the Pulitzer Crisis Centre has reported extensively on crime and corruption in the country.
"Patriotic reporting", it seems, only goes as far as the border.