News24

Zuma blasts spying on journalists

2010-03-20 08:35

Pretoria - Reports of spying on journalists by government officials created a "totally unacceptable" scenario, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday night.

After receiving the newsmaker of the year award by the National Press Club, Zuma said he was concerned about recent events in which government officials had dug into the personal bank accounts of a City Press investigative reporter.

"What I've heard is actually shocking. We are now investigating journalists, for what?"

Zuma was referring to reports earlier this week that a group of senior reporters lodged a complaint against Floyd Shivambu, the ANC Youth League's spokesperson, saying he was intimidating and threatening them after they 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 which questioned league president Julius Malema's directorships in companies which received vast tenders for construction work in Limpopo.

Retort

The basis of the report was provided to him by former Limpopo premier Sello Moloto following questions tabled in the legislature over poor construction work by disgruntled residents, and which are available to the public.

Malema, who hails from Limpopo, denied that he held directorships in the company's involved in contradiction of company records.

The league retorted that they would expose information they had that journalists received money for stories, and that they had sex with politicians to get information.

On Friday night, Zuma said there was also a need for a debate about 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 said these were some of the discussions which were lacking in the country and were necessary to understand each others' position.

"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 profits.

"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."

Jokes

Making light of the award, Zuma said he received it because there appeared to never be a dull moment.

"I seem to attract your attention, no matter how hard I try to stay away and out of the spotlight."

Earlier in a presentation, the National Press Club said according to a MonitoringSA report, Zuma had been mentioned in 22 300 print articles, 33 000 broadcastings and 12 500 online entries.

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

"But I'm sure if they were put on a scale the good ones would weigh very heavy," he said smiling and to much laughter.

Other awards handed out were to Graham Hosken of the Pretoria News for print newsmaker, Beeld photographer Theana Calitz, eyewitness news Kathy Mohlahlana for radio and SABC's Leila Magnus for best radio feature.

The overall winner, Joy Summers from Carte Blanche also received the best in depth television feature.

Best camera person went to Meggan Raubenheimer from etv.

SAPA