Durban – KwaZulu-Natal’s newly-elected Premier, Sihle Zikalala, told journalists on Wednesday that it was thanks to the African National Congress (ANC) that the country’s media enjoyed the freedoms it did.
Zikalala was speaking at the Coastlands Musgrave hotel in Durban during a ‘media interactive session’ hosted by his department and attended by several members of the executive council (MECs) and journalists.
“It is the ANC that ensured that there is the freedom of speech that we are enjoying today - not even the government. It’s the ANC as an organisation – [it] is the one that delivered the freedom of speech," said Zikalala.
“The ANC is the one that ensured that journalists and commentators are the ones who are supported instead of being harassed.”
Zikalala said while government was looking to “partner” with the media, it was not trying to dictate what should be reported by journalists.
“We are not here to say report good about us, but we are here to pledge partnership in building the KwaZulu-Natal province,” said Zikalala.
“We have called on [the media] today not so that we only unpack the [state-of-the-province address], but we also request you in breaking the restraints...of challenges including social ills, lack of economic growth, high levels of crime, unemployment and others.”
Zikalala said that everyone – including the media – had the responsibility of uniting citizens across racial lines and social groups.
He said government believed it had strong partners and “allies” in the media that could help build society.
There were a number of “outstanding” ANC leaders who had contributed to the development of communication science and the media at an academic level as well as the industry itself.
Media development had been at the centre of ANC programmes and the governing party understood that role, and so felt it “important that the media and government work together," he said.
It was important, added the premier, for media to report on the seven priorities of the provincial and national government - economic transformation and job creation, gender and youth empowerment, improvements in basic service delivery, the elimination of crime, fighting corruption and building a capable and ethical state.
“These are the tasks the media should partner with government to build a better South Africa and a better world.”
He said government and the ANC wanted to work with the media to “orientate society” to be responsible.
“We need your partnership and your support to encourage our people to prioritise education, to focus and ensure that we address the issues of HIV and Aids, to educate our people about social entrepreneurship. This partnership, we believe, will assist not only us but the country as a whole and the continent,” said Zikalala.
“We are not afraid [of] and we are not against accountability or scrutiny for that matter, but we request that we partner in playing a transformational role.”
It was “expected” that the media would also “socialise our people” into ubuntu and into embracing “a progressive agenda”, he said.
“We don’t believe [you] should only report about the burning of trucks on the N3. We are not saying don’t report about it, report about it, but also report about what is good that is happening in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.”