The Deputy Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Honourable Sindisiwe Chikunga, MP, addressed the APRM’s Africa Communication Week webinar on the role of African governments in protecting the media as the cornerstone of democracy on 27 May 2021.
The webinar was attended by journalists from within the country and Africa and was addressed by the Director-General of the Department of Public Service and Administration, Ms Yoliswa Makhasi, APRM Continental Secretariat CEO, Prof Eddy Maloka, the Chairperson of the APRM National Governing Council, Mr Thulani Tshefuta, the Chairperson of the Africa Journalist Forum, Mr Jovial Rantao and the APRM Communication and Publicity Thematic Area Member, Ms Carol Mohlala.
The webinar took place in the context of Africa Month with a focus on the Africa Communications Week that took place between 24-28 May 2021, with a special focus on the role of media in promoting public awareness of the APRM and activities associated with South Africa’s 2nd Generation Review.
The Africa Communications Week was introduced in 2017 after realizing that, in this interconnected world, there were excessively many communication professionals around the globe trying to influence the Africa narrative and working in isolation.
The Deputy Minister said the South African media continues to play an important political and social role since the dawn of democracy.
“Benefiting from strong Constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and vibrant civil society, the South African media have contributed to a culture of democratic debate while playing a watchdog role to keep political power to account through investigative journalism and reporting on government programs and corruption.
”All aspects of good governance are facilitated by a strong and independent media in society,” she said.
The Deputy Minister said it is only when journalists are free to monitor, investigate and criticize government policies and actions, that good governance can prevail.
“The media serves as the guardian of the public interest and a fearless and effective watchdog of democracies and to strengthen institutions of democracy,” she said.
Deputy Minister Chikunga said African governments understand that ensuring wider access to information, through the enactment of freedom of information legislation, ensures greater citizen participation in governance.
She said this allows for maximum verifiability of information and allows all stakeholders to come to the table equally on important issues.
Again, the Deputy Minister said African governments should also explore ways to strengthen “e-governance” which provides media and citizens with direct access to administrative information and decision-making processes.
“Openness and transparency in the electoral process are also critical. Africans have seen a fair share of post-electoral violence.
“Media coverage is a crucial component of elections and it is of vital importance that journalists be trained to cover the election campaigns and the elections themselves in a fair and impartial manner, giving a fair share coverage to the viewpoints concerned.
“A positive relationship between the state and media goes beyond pure laissez-faire to nourishing an independent and pluralistic media space,” she said.
The Deputy Minister further appealed to the media in the continent to stick to the traditional journalistic ethics of always verifying the facts before publishing their stories.
“As journalists and reporters, you have the responsibility to be ethical, fair, and balanced in your reporting because your reporting has the potential to build or destabilizing government and politics,” she said.
Public Service and Administration Minister, Mr Senzo Mchunu is the Focal Point for the APRM in the country, while he is also serving as the Chairperson for the APRM Focal Points of Ministers in the continent.
The APRM is a specialized agency of the African Union (AU). It serves as a platform or a tool to share experiences and reinforcing best practices towards political stability, accelerated economic growth, and regional and continental integration as well as sustainable development.