Too cosy for comfort? : a media ethical investigation into the Presidential Press Corps

Van Zyl, Elizabeth Margaretha ; Van Zyl, Lizma (2003-03)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2003.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Govemment and the media are in the process of establishing South Africa's first Presidential Press Corps (PPC) based on the White House Press Corps in the United States of America. The need for a body like the Presidential Press Corps (PPC) has become increasingly evident as the recent relationship between the South African president and this country's press can only be characterised as poor. The establishment of the PPC potentially presents an ethical dilemma though due to various factors. A joumalist can only serve the public with the most comprehensive and accurate news when his or her finger is on the pulse of events that take place within the decision-making bodies. However, being so close to those in power may seriously threaten journalistic independence. This dilemma would be discussed in detail in this assignment. In May 200 I, the troubled relationship between Mbeki and the media was tackled at an Indaba between the South African National Editor's Forum (SANEF) and cabinet at Sun City. The crux and outcome of these discussions are set forth in The lf/oy Fo/wOld, a report prepared by those attending the Indaba. The establishment of the PPC is one of eight joint government and media initiatives outlined in this report. Although there is overwhelming support for the Pl'C, there is concern that the Pl'C members would be censored, manipulated and controlled by government as a result of their proximity. The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) believes the implications are far reaching and pose a serious threat to a free press. This first group of Pl'C journalists is going where no other has gone before in this country's history. They are however facing a daunting task, as the arena they are entering is fraught with novelties, challenges, obstacles and temptations. This assignment will examine the media's role in a democracy, the challenges of far closer cooperation between the media and government, the ethical dilemma potentially presented by the Pl'C as well as ways to ensure as far as possible, an ethical and professional relationship between government and the corps's members.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die regenng en die media is in die proses om Suid-Afrika se eerste Presidensiele Perskorps (PPK) te stig. Die konsep is geskoei op die van die Wit Huis Perskorps in die Verenigde State van Amerika. 'n Dringende behoefte bestaan in Suid-Afrika aan 'n liggaam soos die PPK aangesien dit duidelik geword het dat die verhouding tussen die president en die media nie na wense is nie. Die stigting van die PPK kan egter weens verskeie faktore eties-problematies wees. Joernaliste kan die publiek slegs voorsien van akkurate nuus indien hulle vingers op die polsslag van gebeure binne die land se besluitnemende liggame is. Joernalistieke onafhanklikheid kan egter in gedrang kom indien die verhouding tussen die "waghond" en die regering te intiem raak. Die PPK-Iede sal na verwagting weens gereelde kontak 'n veel hegter verhouding met die president he as wat die geval is met ander joemaliste. Die vertroebelde verhouding tussen die media en president Thabo Mbeki is in Mei 200 1 bespreek tydens 'n lndaba by Sun City. Een van die inisiatiewe waarop daar ooreengekom is in 'n poging om die probleme aan te pak, is die stigting van die PPK. Die Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Redakteursforum en die regering hoop dat die korps sal bydra tot 'n vryer vloei van inligting asook tot 'n beter verstandbouding tussen die regering en die media. Hoewel daar oorweldigende steun is vir die PPK, is daar ook vrese dat die korps se lede gemanupileer en beheer sal word deur die kabinet.Die eerste groep PPK-lede gaan baanbrekerswerk verrig, maar die pad voor hulle is onbekend en vol potensiele gevare. Die uitdagings, slaggate sowel as maniere hoe etiese probleme oorkom kan word, word in hierdie werkstuk bespreek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/53697
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