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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma is either confused or disingenuous for calling for more patriotic coverage of news that puts the state first.
This is the view of Rod Amner, a senior lecturer at Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies.
However, he said that journalists must also play their part in the transformative agenda and guard against cynicism and self-righteousness to a point that they overwhelm readers or audiences with the belief that the state is hopeless.
“Too often when people are taking a lot of heat for their shortcomings, they talk about patriotism. I think he (Zuma) is being disingenuous. I am saying that instead of appealing to patriotism, he should be appealing to active citizenship and to people to become interested in serving the public interest and not the state,” Amner said on Tuesday.
Zuma said this week his call for more patriotic coverage of news was a general call to all media, not the SABC specifically.
“Broadcasting patriotic news, objectivity and balance are not mutually exclusive. The coverage of news in a more patriotic manner does not mean that journalists should not report in an objective and balance manner. It means ensuring balance and fairness and putting the country first before any other consideration.”
He was responding to a parliamentary question from Cope on whether, in light of his recent statement calling for patriotic news, the government intended establishing a broadcaster specialising in patriotic reporting.
Zuma recently lashed out at the media for always reporting negatively.
Amner disagreed, saying: “He is confused in his mind. We are here to defend the people and play the watchdog role. So we need to play the guide-dog role and not the lap-dog role. So we are not here to serve the state, but the public interest.”
To emphasise his point, Amner quoted Samuel Johnson’s warning that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.