- The leader of South Africa's governing African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, has attracted fury from South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) for venting "hostile remarks" towards the print media.
"The attack on the media contains wild generalisations encompassing the media as a whole," SANEF in a statement swiftly responded to Zuma's attacks contained in his weekly online newsletter, accusing South African media of being "politically and ideologically" out of sync with the society they operate.
"There are many examples we can cite to illustrate this point. Every day brings fresh instances of a media that, in general terms, is politically and ideologically out of synch with the society in which it exists," Zuma said.
"This phenomenon is most starkly illustrated at those moments in our political cycle when the people of South Africa get an opportunity to elect parties and individuals they want to represent them in government."
The ANC leader doubted if his country's mainstream media "articulate a progressive left perspective." He also described the orientation of South African media as "politically conservative."
Zuma, who took over the mantle of ANC leadership last month, believed the media must not be the product of "disinterested and detached observers."
"It is instead a product of the various political, social, economic and cultural forces that exist within a society. It is a battle of ideas, and, as such, the media are part of the battle for power.
"Those with power, particularly economic power, are keen that the media serves to reinforce their privileged position, while those who seek a more equitable distribution of resources campaign for a media that serves the cause of a more equitable society."
He said the freedom of the South African media is not undermined by the state, but various tendencies that arise from the commercial imperatives that drive the media.
"The concentration of ownership, particularly in the print sector, has a particularly restrictive effect on the freedom of the media. The process of consolidation and the drive to cut costs through, among other things, rationalisation of newsgathering operations, leads to homogenisation of content."
SANEF has however welcomed Zuma's intentions to widen the channel of communication between the ANC and South Africans. It also expressed delight over Zuma's non-mention of his party's proposal to investigate the setting up of a media tribunal that would "conflict constitutional media freedom.
Zuma said the Letter from the President, previously created by the former ANC leader, Thabo Mbeki, would be now be published on special occasions only when it deals with important themes and events.
Over the years, Mbeki used the forum to portray important political and economic issues as well as grind axe with his opponents, particularly the media.
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