South Africa’s new president, Kgalema Motlanthe, is a strong supporter ofthe freedom of the media. He made this clear earlier this year when headdressed the International Media Forum in Johannesburg.

The IMF brought together communicators from across the spectrum to consider how to communicate what the country has to offer in order to improve international confidence and media coverage.

Motlanthe declared that the ANC’s view has consistently been that “mere declarations of media freedoms on their own are not enough. These freedoms must be underpinned by an equitable distribution of media resources, development programmes and a deliberate effort to engender a culture of open debate”.

He added that where there are problems in the country, “let the world see them. Where there are successes, let the world know”.

Motlanthe stressed that he wanted good coverage of South Africa, but not based on spin.

“We want international confidence in South Africa to be based on an informed understanding of what this country is all about, and to be able to form views and make decisions based on accurate and balanced accounts.

“There are, of course, a range of differing perspectives on the state of the nation. What appears accurate and balanced to one person, could be anything but that to someone else.

“That is why diversity is so important – diversity in terms of the voices that are heard in the media, and diversity in the ownership, control and composition of the media itself.”

Fergal Parkinson, organiser of the International Media Forum, pointed out that Motlanthe’s views have become even more significant since his election as president of the country.

“It might also be as well to keep in mind an ANC decision at Polokwane which took a stab at taking away self-regulation of the media”, Parkinson added.