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Batho Pele Principles

Freedom of expression not under threat

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Monday, 31 October 2011

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has reiterated government's commitment to the Constitution, saying it had no intention of doing anything to undermine freedom of expression.

"Our democracy is not only based on the Constitution but it is also underpinned by the principle of judicial review. Government is committed to continue conducting its public work transparently, as well as facilitating access to information for the public," said Motlanthe.Addressing a meeting between government and the South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) on Friday, Motlanthe noted that with SA increasingly playing a key role in international relations, it had become increasingly important for the public to understand some of the complex issues that related to the country's foreign policy.

"Government and the media can work to enlighten the people on these complex issues."The two-day high-level meeting between the executive and senior leaders of the media started on Friday and aimed to maintain good working relations between government and the media.

Motlanthe stressed that both government and the media had a common responsibility to promote a free, open and democratic society. He said South Africa had made great strides and remarkable progress in creating an environment in which the media was free to operate without intimidation or harassment.

However, he acknowledged more still needed to be done."... There is still room for improvement in our communication with the public... this weakness will be corrected urgently."Echoing Motlanthe's sentiments, Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring, Evaluation and Administration, Collins Chabane said the media had a responsibility to inform citizens accurately about what was happening within and outside the country."Government has to ensure that the media has access to accurate information timeously to ensure that it is transmitted to the citizens properly with its intended objectives. The media also has to ensure that there is fairness and accuracy in its reporting, especially in a young democratic state like ours.

"The media needs to further ensure that facts are verified and stories are balanced enough to allow the consumers of news to exercise their discretion and make up their minds about information placed before them."

SANEF chairperson Mondli Makhanya highlighted the importance of such meetings, saying they helped to build trust between the government and media."These two institutions are vital in South Africa and committed to create a robust and healthy South Africa. There are areas we share common interests and even when we fight, it should not be hostile or war."

The meeting concluded that government and the media had to establish and sustain mutual trust and respect to help consolidate the democracy envisioned in the Constitution.It further highlighted that engagement between government and South Africa's news media should be directed towards assisting the country's continuing transition from apartheid to democracy, and building national pride and self-belief, without stifling critical public debate.

This was the sixth high-level consultation between the parties since 2001. - BuaNews