SOUTH African National Editor’s Forum chairman and editor of the Sunday Times Mathatha Tsedu has brushed aside Information Minister Jonathan Moyo’s appeal to the South Af
rican government to restrain his newspaper from “demonising” President Robert Mugabe.
In an interview this week, Tsedu said Moyo’s letter was inconsequential. “We will not change our editorial policy and we will not cut back on our coverage of the Zimbabwe situation,” Tsedu said. “The president (Thabo Mbeki) and the minister (Essop Pahad) do not run the Sunday Times. We do.”
Moyo last week wrote to South African Minister in the Office of the Presidency, Essop Pahad, claiming the Sunday Times and other media were relentlessly demonising Mugabe.
He implored the South African government to intervene to protect Mugabe. Moyo claimed his efforts to bring the matter to the Sunday Times editor’s attention had “fallen on deaf ears”.
However, Tsedu dismissed Moyo’s claims against his paper as false.
“It’s a downright lie that he has been in touch with us about that and we refused to cooperate,” Tsedu said. “In fact, what has been happening is that each time we contacted him during the course of work he has hung up his telephone.”
Tsedu said it was ironic to see a minister who has been spearheading media repression in his own country now pretending to be concerned about journalistic professionalism.
“He is free to contact us just like any other reader and we will discuss with him,” Tsedu said. “Going to Pahad will not help anything. Our government has not contacted us about it and we don’t expect them to.”
Pahad’s spokesman Louis Duplooy yesterday said the minister had not yet replied to Moyo’s letter.
“The minister is out of the country. We are expecting him back home tonight (last night),” Duplooy said. “He has not yet formally responded to the letter but we can confirm that we have received it.”
Mbeki’s spokesman Bheki Khumalo this week also rejected Moyo’s appeal.
“South Africa has laws that govern the freedom of the press and we have no intention of interfering with that,” Khumalo said.
“Sometimes we are criticised and lampooned in ways that we do not like but we respect the right of the media to do so. We fundamentally support the right of people to criticise. Our law allows people to write what they like.”
Moyo’s past appeals to have the state-run SABC restrained in its coverage of Zim-babwean issues have also been ignored.