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Sanef alarmed at call by the ANC to boycott City Press Newspaper

24 May 2012

The South African National Editors’ Forum notes that the South Gauteng High Court has decided to adjourn the hearing of an application by President Jacob Zuma and the ANC seeking to compel City Press newspaper to remove from its website an image of the Spear, a controversial painting by Brett Murray depicting the President.

Sanef accepts that South Africans have divergent attitudes to the artwork in question, and that some may find it offensive.

However we believe it is the right and duty of print, internet, and broadcast news providers to ensure that their audiences are as fully informed as possible on matters of public interest. Decisions about how to handle potentially offensive material while carrying out that duty lie within the editorial discretion of each news organisation, and City Press is well within its rights to continue displaying the Spear on its website.

Similarly, the ANC is entitled to criticise the decisions taken by editors. We hope that officials and ordinary members will not allow such criticism to stray into the domain of threats against news organisations or journalists with whom the party disagrees.

Sanef is alarmed at the call by the ANC and senior governing party leaders for a boycott of City Press newspaper.

While we recognise the right of the ANC to advise members on how to exercise their consumer decisions, the call for a boycott of a newspaper is tantamount to intimidation and abuse of power. This kind of behaviour is unbecoming of a party that functions in an open democratic stage and especially one which leads the national government.

Issued by the SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)