Zuma take on Mexico ‘insulting’

2013-09-15 14:01

Speaking to aspirant journalists who ­visited Parliament this week, President Jacob Zuma related how he was shocked to find that crime in Mexico was “out of this world” on first visiting the country as deputy president.

“I said, but why didn’t I read about this in the media, because in our country ... you read about everything. And this ­gentleman very politely said all of us as patriots of this country want Mexico to succeed and we market it.

“And we can’t market Mexico ­negatively. We can’t wash our dirty linen in public ... If we said there was huge crime in Mexico, people would not come to invest in this country.

“So journalists would report about ­everything – not the wrong things. That’s what the man said.”

Zuma said: “I then called it to him. Oh, this is patriotic reporting? He said yes, ­patriotic reporting.”

Javier Garza, the special adviser on safety at the World Editors Forum and editorial director of Mexican newspaper El Siglo de Torreón, has dismissed Zuma’s comments as “not only outrageous lies”, but “insulting”.

This is Garza’s statement, which was sent to City Press: “Mexican media outlets avoid covering crime and violence in their communities not because of a patriotic duty, but because of threats and aggressions unleashed against them by criminal organisations that authorities have been unable to stop.

“The kidnapping and murder of journalists, as well as armed attacks against the offices of media organisations, have grown in Mexico in the past decade and the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators only guarantees that the attacks will ­continue.

“There are media outlets that do not cover crime because they are flushed with government advertising that in effect puts them under control of whatever government is paying for it, either federal or ­local, to make sure the coverage is ­positive.

“The newspapers, radio or TV stations that do cover criminal violence are routinely criticised by government officials as negative messengers trying to damage the image of a particular city or the ­country, an argument similar to the one Zuma is using.

“Zuma attributes the notion of ‘patriotic reporting’ to Mexican officials who told him about it on his visit to the country. Perhaps those officials were covering up the fact that authorities have been unable to stop aggressions against journalists and that the silence of media outlets has been forced by criminal organisations.

“Either Zuma was too naive to believe it or he thought it was a clever twist of reality that might also serve his political needs.

“In any case, I don’t think the public funds that paid for Zuma’s Mexican trip were well spent, as he returned to South Africa with no idea of what’s going on in our country.”

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