Newsmaker – Hlaudi Motsoeneng on mission to save journalism from itself

2014-07-13 15:00

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Hlaudi Motsoeneng is on a mission to save South African journalism from itself.

Motsoeneng – whose appointment as SABC chief operating officer this week was condemned by political parties and civil society organisations – wants to persuade media professionals, including the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef), to agree to his idea of licensing journalists.

On Friday, Motsoeneng rubbed shoulders with bigwigs like Communications Minister Faith Muthambi at BrandSA’s workshop for its national communications task team.

He met City Press on the sidelines of the workshop, where he would later deliver the same message about “patriotic journalism” and the need to license reporters.

Among those in attendance were BrandSA chief executive Miller Motola and spokesperson in the presidency Ronnie Mamoepa.

Of his appointment, Motsoeneng says only that he’s “humbled”, referring further questions about his job to the SABC.

But he’s happy to talk about his licensing idea.

“I want to influence journalists themselves, Sanef itself. But I have already influenced many people. I mean, if you check Independent Newspapers and The New Age, they share the same vision. They may not share my vision on the licence issue but when you talk about positive stories they share the same views.”

Licences are important because some journalists are “lazy” and do not report objectively, he says.

“If I make an example about the SABC, [journalists] rely on the internet and the print media. What I am encouraging is that [journalists] do investigative journalism. If you’re a journalist you can’t just sit in the office, you need to have your own sources outside but those sources must be credible.

“When they give you information and you say this will happen tomorrow, it should happen.” But I know people are afraid of the issue I raised?...?but if you know your facts, you should not be worried about a licence.”

He says a national body comprising people from civil society as well as professional journalists would be best placed to issue these licences.

“We can still tell good stories in SA and there are many issues that are happening. For me it’s not about government, I see people only focus on government. For me if you’re an individual doing well within your community we should highlight such stories, expose such stories,” he says.

After discussing this plan, he loosens up enough to talk about his new five-year contract as the public broadcaster’s chief operating officer. He does not care about his critics, nor worry openly about any chance he may lose his job if it’s found he was hired unlawfully.

“I’m not concerned about what people say about me because people, in their nature, will always talk. Some people are happy, some people are not happy. It’s part of life. In life, 50 people love you, the other 50 hate you. What are you losing?”

His main focus now is on taking the public broadcaster “higher and higher” rather than paying any attention, for instance, to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s decision to investigate his appointment.

“I don’t have any feeling about [Madonsela’s investigation]. My feeling is I should concentrate on my work, so people can do whatever they do.”

How the SABC board voted

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