Presidential media working group on the cards

Pretoria: The Presidency will soon launch a Presidential Media and Communication Working Group, which will bring government into contact with media leaders and experts in the sector.

This was one of the announcements made by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa when he met with members of the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) in Pretoria on Saturday.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said the new structure will enable government to develop an understanding of developments and challenges experienced in the media.

The Deputy President said government had also looked at the establishment of a Presidential Press Corps, which will comprise journalists who cover the Presidency.

The high level meeting at the Presidential Guest House, was attended by editors and senior journalists from several media houses, with SANEF chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela leading the media delegation.

It was the first time for Deputy President Ramaphosa to engage with the media managers since he took office in 2014.

He said government was striving to establish constructive partnerships with stakeholders across all sectors of society, including the media.

“Such partnerships underpinned by dialogue and the joint actions that result from them, help us to move forward.

“These partnerships help to ensure that our nation is motivated by shared values, a common understanding of the challenges we face and a collective appreciation of the transformation that is underway in our society,” Deputy President Ramaphosa said.

Government and media have unique roles

He said government and the media had particular roles to play in society and that they were accountable to the South African public for the way they performed these functions.

“We are all custodians of the aspirations of the millions of South Africans who have struggled, suffered and sacrificed to be free. Each of us – politicians, journalists, editors – are custodians of our democracy, of development, of justice and equality.”

The Deputy President acknowledged that the relationship between government and the media in any democracy was underpinned and marked by healthy tensions.

However, government remained committed to a free and thriving media. The media remained critical in informing citizens about the work of government and educating them about their rights and responsibilities. To be successful as a country and nurture a functioning democracy, government needs to partner with the media so that it can empower citizens, said Deputy President Ramaphosa.

New media shapes public discourse

He noted that with the emergence of new media platforms, citizens are increasingly able to shape public discourse. They are also able to be active public discourse participants and “activists” arising from these new media platforms.

“They are able to ask difficult questions. They are able to offer solutions and actively promote their interests.”

Deputy President Ramaphosa said the aim of Saturday’s meeting with SANEF was to explore how the country can use respective platforms to realise the promise of 1994.

He said the government’s focus since 1994 had been largely to address poverty, unemployment and inequality.

However the systemic challenges in the economy coupled with the skills deficit and high unemployment rate were making it difficult for the government to accelerate the delivery of the 1994 promise.

Despite, the shrinking revenue base, government is investing significantly in economic infrastructure, expanding energy and water supply, improving transport and logistics capabilities, and installing broadband across the country.

“Even in difficult economic conditions, we are sustaining our investment in schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and clinics. We are sustaining spending on social grants, housing, textbooks, antiretrovirals and the many other social interventions needed to tackle poverty and promote development.”

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