Manyi launches state newspaper

2011-03-26 17:32

The government is launching its own newspaper and it will be published by the head of ­government communications, Jimmy Manyi.

City Press can reveal that the government’s bi-monthly ­maga­zine, Vuk’uzenzele, will be turned into a monthly tabloid newspaper with a print run of two million from next month. And Manyi’s plan is to publish it fortnightly by March next year.

“The media is censoring a lot of government information,” Manyi said this week. “Niyasivusa ukuba sizenzele (You are waking us up to do things ourselves),” he told City Press.

Manyi announced his plans ­during a briefing to Parliament last week at which his department, the Government Communication and Information ­System (GCIS), presented its strategic plan for 2011-2014.

The newspaper will be edited by former Beeld journalist ­Tyrone Seale, who is currently the managing editor of Vuk’uzenzele magazine and the GCIS’s chief director of ­content and writing.

Manyi told City Press that the government would be ­abdicating its responsibility if it allowed editors of commercial newspapers to decide which government information was published.

He said journalists came to government news conferences where 10 issues were raised, but only one issue would be published.

The GCIS has already issued a tender for the newspaper, which will initially be a 16- to 20-page tabloid with a print run of between 1.7 million and two million. This would make it the biggest circculating publication in the country.

According to industry insiders, it will cost the ­government more than ­R1 million just to print one edition.

Manyi has not ruled out the possibility of turning Vuk’uzenzele ­into a daily newspaper.

He said the commercial ­media would give government reason to turn Vuk’uzenzele into a daily by continuing to “censor” government information.

Vuk’uzenzele will be free and will not compete with the mainstream media, Manyi said. The newspaper will be ­distributed at government’s Thusong Service Centres and it will be the biggest newspaper in the country.

“We want it on the streets, in every township and rural area. It will be bigger than all of you guys put together,” Manyi said.

With each edition, 1 000 ­posters will be distributed.

The staff who produce Vuk’uzenzele will be responsible for the newspaper, but more staff might be hired.

Manyi has not decided yet whether to sell advertising in the ­newspaper.

He said although advertising might reduce the financial ­burden on the taxpayer, it might “clutter” the newspaper.

“It might create confusion. Don’t be surprised if we don’t allow commercial advertising,” Manyi said.

The newspaper will be ­published in all 11 official ­languages.

Media professor Jane Duncan of Rhodes University said local newspapers did not represent the totality of South African opinion, but launching a ­government newspaper was not the answer to ­addressing these problems.

Duncan suggested that the government should rather support ­independent newspapers and implement measures to ­diversify a rapidly consolidating industry.

She said if government was motivated by an attempt to ­ensure ­accessible newspapers, then it should rather commit more money to print media ­diversification through the ­Media Development and ­Diversity Agency.

“One can surmise that the ­government is hoping to establish a paper that will crowd out the critical voice of newspapers and give its activities a positive gloss,” Duncan said.

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