Government reiterates support for media independence

Government has reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen relations with media and support its independence.

Government made the commitment at a webinar held on Thursday.

The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) joined South Africa’s media industry in commemorating the 45th anniversary of Black Wednesday, to reflect on and discuss media freedom.

GCIS Chief Director for Media Engagement, William Baloyi said South Africa has made huge progress under democracy in advancing media freedom, and the South African Government has interest to see their freedom, as it enshrines in our Constitution.

“Free media is integral part of our democracy and government is committed to press freedom. We value our regular interactions with the media formations, including South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), Press Club, Press Gallery, Foreign Correspondence Associations, Association of Independent Publishers, and the National Community Radio Forum, amongst others.

“Media freedom is the architect of our democracy, especially the democratic dispensation that we are in now, insisted that media freedom be a fundamental feature of our new society. Media is playing a role that is being enshrined in Constitution and they are essential to us in building and open an exclusive information society,” Baloyi said.

Baloyi also noted that the media is a key player in assisting national dialogue, and social cohesion.

He said government has begun a process of participating in conversations on media sustainability with other media organisations, including SANEF and its partners.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure that journalism strives. Government established the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) in 2002 because of a need to support vibrant community and small commercial media sector in a county to make sure we safeguard our democracy.

“We are working on a Print and Digital Media Transformation and Revitalisation Steering Committee [and] this shows us that we are committed to making sure that all instruments that are there safeguard the democracy that we have, that support from all sectors,” Baloyi said.

Government also expressed its appreciation the good work of the media during the COVID-19.

“Journalists work diligently to inform the nation about COVID-19 and helped citizens understand the spread and impact of the virus. Our journalists have been at the forefront in the fight against the virus and widely sharing our message to the public,” Baloyi said.

Editor of Sowetan Newspaper, Nwabisa Makunga appreciates the efforts made by government through dialogues with the media, and urged government to also include shop floors in the newsrooms when having such conversations.

Pressures in newsrooms

Makunga said economic pressure in the newsrooms and attacks on journalism, are some of the issues, which keep journalists awake at night.

“There’s a concerted efforts from some quarters of the country undermining and discrediting the craft of journalism. This largely manifests itself in the attacks on individual journalists in the work that they do when they demand accountability from powerful players. These attacks often [and] sometimes happen on social media, and they are often gendered.

“The question is what is it that we are doing as a society to be able to push back, to be able to protect the values of journalism but on a broader scale, values of transparency, accountability and prosecutional values,” Makunga said.

Source: South African Government News Agency