While Communications Minister Faith Muthambi may be in charge of communicating, up to now, she has failed dismally in doing so.
I attended a discussion on the importance of community news and state-owned enterprises in Pretoria yesterday, at which Muthambi was a guest speaker. The message in her speech boiled down to mainstream media versus community media.
Community media needed to be strengthened, she said. Mainstream media was portrayed as the big bad wolf.
She went on to praise the SABC for its decision not to give free publicity to commercial newspapers, having gone as far as canning its radio show The Editors, in which newspaper headlines were read.
As most people are aware, the SABC was accused of censorship following its decision to not broadcast violent community protests.
Muthambi has lauded embattled SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the SABC’s decision.
The minister, having been largely silent on these events, was then asked by a journalist colleague of mine if she thought this might be censorship. This journalist was then told by another speaker on the panel that the session was not about the SABC, which begged the question why Muthambi spoke about the SABC in the first place.
Taking the mic, Muthambi promised to address the journalists outside. With four of us being commercial media, we then awaited our chat with the minister, but were told by her spokesperson that “this was not going to happen”.
“But she said she would speak to us,” we complained. It was only after Muthambi made her exit down the escalator that she “communicated” with us.
“No comment,” she commented. We were then accused by her of being “arrogant” and “serving our masters”.
It was at this point that I just had to ask who our minister was protecting with her silence: South Africa, or the SABC? This is the woman who reportedly once told an SABC board member about Zuma’s love for Hlaudi Motsoeneng: “But Baba loves him. We must support him.”