That’s according to Andrew Heslop, editor of press freedom and media development at the World Editors Forum, who wrote an open letter to Zuma that was published in the City Press on Sunday.
The letter was a response to Jacob Zuma’s speech made to a group of journalism students from the Tshwane University of Technology. He spoke to them about “patriotic reporting” and encouraged them to market their country in a positive light, much like the media in Mexico.
Heslop said in his letter that the president displayed a deep misunderstanding of journalism. Heslop emphasized that “silence kills democracy.”
President Jacob Zuma’s comments this week regarding Mexico’s press portray a deep misunderstanding of the role of the media and the profession of journalism.
Furthermore, his interpretation of “patriotic reporting” is an insult to the dozens of murdered Mexican journalists whose work made them targets of organised crime.
Perhaps President Zuma was not reading the right papers on his trip to Mexico. Maybe his Spanish is not up to the challenge of navigating the country’s blogosphere to unearth the reality of news reporting.
Or perhaps the president’s assertion that he knew nothing of the country’s “rampant crime” was pure ignorance on the part of a man who sees the media as a mouthpiece useful only for the good times.
Mexico’s press has been under attack almost daily for its efforts to expose the reality of the country’s situation. Since December 2006 – the beginning of the so-called War on Drugs – 41 journalists have been murdered with almost total impunity, while concrete steps have yet to be taken at any level of government to address ongoing safety concerns.
By December last year, as former president Felipe Calderón’s administration came to an end, the official death toll for those caught up in the violence stood at 60 000.
Unofficial figures put the number closer to 100 000. Is President Zuma genuinely suggesting the reasons behind this horror should not be reported, investigated and exposed for fear of triggering a marketing disaster?
Read the full letter here.
[Source: The Mail & Guardian, City Press]
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