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Media Statement following SANEF and Government meeting October 15 – 16, 2010

Media Statement following a meeting between Government and SANEF leadership October 15 – 16, 2010 in Magaliesburg

16 October 2010

Government and the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) have agreed that improved relations between Government and the media are critical to the achievement of South Africa envisaged in the country’s Constitution.

Government and SANEF met at Magaliesburg in the North West this weekend to reflect on the role of Government and media within the context of the country’s development.

Chaired by the Deputy President, The Hon Kgalema Motlanthe, the meeting agreed that the respective roles of the State and media enjoyed affirmation and protection in the Constitution, and that the Constitution should be the focal point governing relations between the two institutions.

Government and SANEF affirmed one another’s role, recognising that a vibrant, diverse and critical media sector was as important to the country’s Constitutional democracy as a Government elected with a clear mandate.

SANEF expressed concerns about developments it views as threatening media freedom in the country and as shifting Government towards secrecy, and pointed to what it sees as shortcomings in the communications practice and culture within Government.

Government raised its concern that it was at times vilified and untreated unfairly by media, and that it was held solely responsible for the entrenchment of democracy, in ways that did not apply to other sectors of society.

Government also raised issues around the diversity of media ownership, the quality and integrity of reporting, redress for individuals or institutions affected by inaccurate or salacious reporting, and the need for the dissemination of information in ways that would support help the country realise the vision contained in the Constitution.

The meeting agreed that:
• The Constitution remains the central reference point and guiding principle of both the mandate of Government and the role of the media, and that the legitimacy of both institutions remains firmly entrenched
• Government and the media share an inter-dependency within this constitutional framework and mutually acceptable norms of behaviour would serve to strengthen the delivery of information to the public
• South Africa is a fledgling democracy with a number of complexities and that both Government and the media have the responsibility to interact with each other in ways that will build respect for their respective roles and mandate.
• Government and the media will engage one another robustly without allowing the tensions that naturally arise in democratic discourse to turn into hostility.

In closing the meeting, the Deputy President urged Government and the media to strive for excellence.
Challenges should be addressed with the understanding that South Africa is a fledgling democracy in its formative stages.
The Deputy President called for annual meetings between members of Cabinet and senior editorial executives and said continuous engagement will eliminate irritants in the relationship between the two institutions.
He said the starting point for relations should be the Constitution, which was transformative and enjoined all South Africans in all formations or sectors of society to attend to the challenges that had accumulated from the country’s past.