Spying on journalists is unacceptable, says Zuma

2010-03-20 11:39

REPORTS of spying on journalists by government officials were

creating a “totally unacceptable” scenario, President Jacob Zuma said last

night.

After receiving the Newsmaker of The Year Award from the National

Press Club, Zuma said he was concerned about recent reports that government

officials had dug into the personal bank accounts of a City Press investigative

reporter.

“What I have heard is actually shocking. We are now investigating

journalists, for what?” he said.

Zuma was referring to reports earlier this week that a group of

senior reporters had lodged a complaint against ANC Youth League spokesperson

Floyd Shivambu, saying he was intimidating and threatening them because they had

refused to publish allegations of money-laundering against City Press reporter

Dumisane Lubisi.

Lubisi is one of the reporters who produced a series of articles

questioning youth league president Julius Malema’s directorships of companies

that have netted vast tenders for construction work in Limpopo.

The basis of the report was provided to him by former Limpopo

premier Sello Moloto after questions were tabled in the legislature over

complaints by disgruntled residents about poor construction work by Malema’s

companies. The questions are available to the public.

Malema, who hails from Limpopo, denied that he holds directorships

in the companies involved.

Company records suggest, however, that he does hold

directorships in them.

The league retorted that it would expose information it had that

journalists received money for stories and that some had sex with politicians to

get information.

Last night Zuma said there was also a need for a debate on how far

the exercise of media freedom should go.

“When does media freedom become tantamount to the harassment of an

individual? Who must make that judgement? Where do we draw the line?” he asked.

“We are not seeking to interfere with editorial independence. It

must be allowed to be independent to do its job,” he said, adding it was

understood that as business enterprises the media needed to make profit.

“Editors would therefore be more inclined to run a story on a

prominent person’s lifestyle over one that celebrated national achievements or

developmental goals,” he said.

Making light of the award, Zuma said: “I seem to attract your

attention, no matter how hard I try to stay away and out of the spotlight.”

The National Press Club said according to a MonitoringSA report,

Zuma was mentioned in 22 300 print articles, 33 000 broadcasts and 12 500 online

entries.

Zuma said he was aware that some of the mentions were good while

others were bad.

“But I am sure if they were put on a scale the good ones would

weigh very heavy,” he said smiling and to much laughter.

Other awards were bestowed on Graham Hosken of the Pretoria News

for print newsmaker; Beeld photographer Theana Calitz; Kathy Mohlahlana of

Eyewitness News for Radio; and the SABC’s Leila Magnus for best radio

feature.

The overall winner, Joy Summers of Carte Blanche, received the

award for best in-depth television feature.

The best camera person award went to Megan Raubenheimer of etv.

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