Jay Naidoo warns of 'society of secrets'
Johannesburg - After all that South Africans had fought for, was the country stepping backwards to build "a society of secrets", asked former communications minister Jay Naidoo in an interview published in The Media magazine's January 2011 edition.
Naidoo was commenting on government's relationship with the media.
"The media, that very important pillar of our society, is under enormous threat right now because of the proposed protection of information bill and the punitive media appeals tribunal," he was quoted saying.
"Is that the type of society we want? It flies in the face of our traditions and our promise of a people-centred democracy."
Naidoo criticised his former colleagues in government for "interfering where they should not and being politically arrogant rather than working together".
He pointed out the recent SABC board saga as an obvious example of government's interference that had a negative impact.
"Parliament appointed a board of highly respected, competent, committed people and they should have trusted them to do their job and judged them by their deliverables.
"The board should have been left to do what it was mandated to do, rather than have to deal with political interference of the worst kind - which divided them," Naidoo said.
'His master's voice'
He was further quoted saying that the minister (of communications) should not attempt to micro-manage such an institution and described it as tragic that the SABC was filled with great talent "who are now working in an institution that is tarnished as being 'his master's voice'".
Naidoo said the issue was not only just about the media, but also the type of society people lived in.
"We fought to have a voice and to express ourselves freely and the media is an essential component in doing that," he said.
Naidoo said he believed that the issue was about a leadership that was open and accountable, and did not shy away from debate and scrutiny.
"A leadership that is confident in itself to lead from the front and not from behind heavy closed doors... The issue of accountability is central to this on both sides," he said, adding that the media could not be absolved from its ills.
Media not perfect
"The media is far from perfect.
"It needs to take a long, hard look at itself.
"It needs to look at the quality of its reporting and coverage; the investment on the part of the media owners and editors in diversity, in journalistic talent and retaining that talent, and in ensuring the sustainability of the media at a time when the sector is under financial threat all over the world," Naidoo said.
"We have a serious juniorisation in our newsrooms and we are simply not investing in training and ensuring investigations are done properly," he said.
Naidoo said this shortcoming had led to severe criticism, which was legitimate in the way that the media conducted itself and that the sector was not above the law.
"There needs to be greater investment in a more robust and accountable media."
Naidoo also agreed with government that diversity in the media was essential, and that it was "not happening".
"But instead of using a club, we need to come to negotiated agreements," he said.