Black editors failing, Manyi claims
Cape Town - Government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi accused black newspaper editors on Friday of failing to bring about diversity in print media content.
"We would like to challenge the black editors. We are not feeling them as government," Manyi said at the end of a two-day parliamentary indaba on transformation of the print media.
"It is important to understand for all of us that non-racialism cannot be the denial of our diverse cultures, but rather an expression of it. There is nothing racist about asserting your culture."
To illustrate his point, Manyi said that when a goat was slaughtered white people might see it as cruelty to animals, but Africans would see it as sign of goodwill from their ancestors.
"So that element is what we want to see from our black editors. They must bring this diversity. When I read something I must see this diversity coming through.
"So, we would really encourage them to be forthright and assert the other cultures and not suppress them as you do."
Manyi told delegates at the indaba, seen as a potential first step to the introduction of outside regulation of the media, that the press was focusing on "accountability" to the detriment of other issues.
"There is still room to improve, especially on reporting the work of government. We really want our media to look at those big issues."
Mondli Makhanya, chair of the SA National Editor's Forum (Sanef), disagreed with Manyi.
"That was disturbing," he told Sapa after the indaba.
"We operate as South Africans, as editors and journalists, and not as racial categories, and it is actually quite insulting to say black and white editors must see everything differently from each other."
Earlier, Avusa managing editor Mike Robertson told delegates it was not skin colour that made a good editor "but good ears".
The indaba was held by Parliament's portfolio committee on communication and would be followed in March by another that would consider whether the country needed a media charter to impose transformation targets, chairperson Eric Kholwane said.
He asked the Government Communications and Information Service, of which Manyi is CEO, and the Media Development Diversity Agency (MDDA) to conduct further research on media diversity, and present their findings at the next round.
Kholwane said it was with "regret" that he heard Print Media SA (PMSA) confirm in its presentation that, on average, black ownership of South African media groups was a scant 14%.
MDDA chair Lumko Mtimde argued that a lack of diversity in print media ownership and content was stifling democracy in South Africa, but said that replacing white print media members with black ones had not brought a plurality of views.
"The South African media, in particular print media, should change," he said.
It remained riddled with "overt and subliminal messages" that showed the bias of writers and editors.
"We need a media community that addresses the needs of the republic. South Africans need to be provided with a broader range of information and opinions."
Mtimde, who is a member of the SABC board and a supporter of the ANC proposal for a media appeals tribunal, said something was clearly amiss if all mayor newspapers expressed the same editorial view on a particular issue.
He dismissed PMSA's contention that it was contributing to diversity through its community newspapers, saying these publications needed different owners if they were to fulfil their true purpose.
"You have media that is owned by conglomerate media - Caxton, Media 24 - called community media and that does not help to promote the diversity agenda.
"It presents confusion in the market. Some players who are committed to promoting media diversity think that they are supporting community media when they spend their advertising on that media, whereas they [are] reinforcing the established media."
Sanef, which was invited at only the last minute, did not deliver a presentation on Friday. Makhanya said it would do so in March.