Buthelezi weighs in on state newspaper

2011-04-01 14:11

Holding government accountable is done through publishing what it gets wrong, not what it gets right, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said today.

Buthelezi weighed in on the government newspaper set to hit the streets soon, in his weekly online newsletter.

It was reported over the weekend that government is to launch its own newspaper to be published by spokesman Jimmy Manyi.

Government’s bi-monthly magazine, Vuk’uzenzele, would be turned into a monthly tabloid newspaper with a print run of 2 million from next month.

Manyi planned to publish it fortnightly by March next year.

Manyi said government would be abdicating its responsibility if it allowed editors of commercial newspapers to decide which government information was published.

He said journalists came to government news conferences where 10 issues were raised, but only wrote about one.

The GCIS had issued a tender for the newspaper, which would initially be a 16- to 20-page tabloid with a print run of between 1.7 million and 2 million.

This would make it the biggest circulating publication in the country. It would cost government more than R1 million to print one edition, according to City Press.

“The telltale sign of a communist or autocratic state is a front page filled with good news stories,” Buthelezi said.

“Throughout the world, it is only in communist and autocratic countries that government spends taxpayers’ money to celebrate its own successes, glorify the ruling elite and tell citizens how they should see reality.”

Buthelezi said government’s argument for a newspaper of its own was that commercial newspapers were selective in their coverage of government. It argued that all government information should be made available.

“But all information is selective.

“Disseminating every single piece of information about government’s decisions and activities would be impossible, unless one is willing to produce an encyclopaedia everyday. But let’s not inspire Mr Manyi any further.”

Buthelezi said he found it “difficult to believe” that government would not “abuse the platform” to “blow its own horn” at the expense of the taxpayer.

“I would be interested to see whether other political parties are given any opportunity to contribute, or even whether the editor in chief of Vuk’uzenzele the tabloid, will publicise the service delivery victories of IFP-led municipalities.”

He also expressed doubt that the newspaper would cost the same as government magazine Vuk’uzenzele did to print. The magazine had a print-run of 1.6 million copies every two months.

“In a briefing to the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications two weeks ago, the GCIS admitted that it intended to ask Cabinet to allow it to access 15 percent of the communications budget of every government department.

“The Association of Independent Publishers has pointed out that many independent community newspapers have gone bankrupt and been withdrawn, while government did nothing to assist their continued existence.

“Yet now it is able to come up with millions of rand to produce its own publication on the premise that communities have a right to access to information.”

Buthelezi said the idea of a government newspaper was “inimical to the very matrix of democracy”. 

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