Zuma complains about media reporting
Cape Town - While wishing all journalists a happy National Press Freedom Day, President Jacob Zuma has complained of the media coverage of him as being trapped in two story lines - either he is indecisive or he is vindictive.
A statement issued by Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj on Wednesday issued a call for fairness, objectivity and open-mindedness in the coverage of government and especially of Zuma.
"When the President considers all aspects of matters placed before him to take an informed decision, the media accuses him of being indecisive. When he acts, he is accused of taking decisions vindictively, informed by the ANC elective conference that is scheduled to take place in Mangaung, Bloemfontein next year.
This stereotyping and pigeon-holing does not constitute fairness and objectivity that is expected of their media and misinforms the public," the statement said.
It went on to say that Zuma takes decisions independently, informed by objective facts that are placed before him.
"The pigeon-holing of the president that has become prevalent misleads the public and also kills critical thinking in the media and public space.
The media's responsibility is to inform the public first and foremost on what the decision is all about and all aspects of it. They are then free to comment on it, but must not give an impression that their opinions are facts," the statement said.
It went on to say that opinions needed to be marked clearly so that the public can make their own judgements based on the information provided.
Statement quite extraordinary
"On this national Press Freedom Day, we humbly urge the media and analysts to exercise their minds openly and widely, and analyse each action or decision on its own merits, and avoid stereotyping. In this way the South African public will be better informed about the actions, decisions and policies of government," the statement said.
Political analyst Daniel Silke said the issuing of such a statement was quite extraordinary and was indicative of the sensitivities surrounding Zuma's office.
"It also highlights the sensitivities in the run up to the African National Congress' 2014 elective conference. Calling attention to the two story lines is a sign that they clearly exist," Silke said.
He said the statement was in fact admitting that the nature of the press coverage was potentially harming relations between Zuma and his own party ahead of the conference.
October 17 is remembered as "Black Wednesday" by the South African press when the Apartheid government in 1977 banned two newspapers and detained a number of activists and journalists using draconian censorship and detention laws.