DA: Govt ad plan an abuse of power
Johannesburg - Government's plan to use advertising as a means of rewarding publications for favourable reporting is a "gross abuse" of power, the Democratic Alliance said on Friday.
"Plans announced to this effect yesterday by... government spokesperson, Jimmy Manyi, are clearly aimed at turning the free media into a propaganda outlet for the government," DA MP Natasha Michael said in a statement.
"Such a move will not only constitute a gross abuse of power, but will undermine the strength of one of the most crucial democratic institutions - the free media."
Michael said centralising government's advertising budget under Government communications and information system (GCIS) would give the body significant power to promote or ignore media outlets based on what they were reporting.
Criticising and reporting
"Mr Manyi yesterday referred to the 'role we want the media to play, that of passing on information of government'."
"His comments display a complete disregard for the role and function of a strong free media, and underline this administration's deeply concerning intolerance of criticism," she said.
Announcing the plan on Thursday, Manyi reportedly appealed to the media to not only criticise, but also to report on important information which South Africans deserved to know.
He voiced concern that some media organisations criticised information from the government instead of reporting it to the public.
DA to oppose govt approach
While the government welcomed media criticism, it was also important for the media to "pass on" government information, especially on service delivery, he said.
"We have content, please pass it on... Government is serious about information getting to the people, we don't apologise about that."
Manyi said approval of the strategy would result in "a return to government's centralised approach to media buying".
The DA would continue to use all available mechanisms to oppose government's increasingly authoritarian approach to the free flow of information, Michael said.