Zuma supports independent media
Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has stressed the importance of having an independent media free to express its views.
"We reiterate our commitment to media freedom as government and promote media freedom rights for both the public as consumers of media products, and the industry as producers," Zuma told media owners in Pretoria on Friday, at what he called "the first high-level summit" between the two parties.
"All of us have a responsibility to strive to develop a free and independent media."
MPs were currently finalising the protection of information bill and the African National Congress was discussing setting up a media appeals tribunal. The interventions by the government had been seen by many quarters as attempts to gag the media.
The tribunal would empower the government to regulate the print and electronic media, while the bill would give the government the power to classify information in the "national interest".
Without mentioning these issues, Zuma further highlighted the need to strive for a media "truly free" of political, commercial, factional and other interests.
He spoke of the critical role the media played in enhancing democracy, and of the importance of promoting diversity and transformation within the sector.
Zuma said ownership and staffing should reflect the country's demographics.
This meeting with media owners follows a similar gathering with editors, hosted by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. Another one was hosted by the Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane.
Friday's meeting focused on "industry specific issues", government's main priority for 2011, marketing of government and the country, economic transformation and job creation.
Leading the media was Print Media SA chairperson Prakash Desai and chairperson of the National Association of Broadcasters Karen Willenberg.
Zuma's delegation included senior government officials led by government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane and Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.
Zuma further reaffirmed government's commitment to fight corruption, which he described as a "key threat" to achieving government objectives.
"We are making steady progress as a country in taking forward this fight."
In less than a year, more than 18 proclamations authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to conduct investigations were issued by Zuma. Most of these focused on procurement related irregularities.
Zuma said this was the highest number ever in the history of the SIU.
At the moment, the unit was busy investigating contracts to the value of about R10bn and conflict of interest involving officials, estimated at R5bn.
The unit was also looking into irregularities in the department of rural development and land reform. It relates to the unlawful transfer of farms valued at more than R60mm to individuals.
Farms valued at R36m have already been recovered for the state.
Zuma said government departments co-operate with the SIU and that in most cases investigations are instigated by department ministers as part of the anti-corruption drive.