Statement of the meeting between the SACP and City Press
28 May 2012
An SACP delegation led by General Secretary Blade Nzimande met with City Press Editor, Ferial Haffajee and some of her colleagues to discuss a wide range of issues related to the newspapers coverage of Brett Murray`s painting, The Spear.
The SACP referred to the pioneering role it played in fostering alternative media in South Africa through such publications as The International, The South African Worker, Umsebenzi, The Guardian, Advance, and New Age, and the huge sacrifices its members had made in fighting for the freedom of the Press and democracy in this country. The SACP stressed that it remains committed to freedom of speech and artistic expression but does not see this as an abstract right that licenses media workers and artists to trample on peoples dignity and inflame racial tensions.
The SACP noted that Ferial Haffajee also once recognized, in another context, that the right to freedom of expression is not an unlimited right and it needs to be balanced and socially contextualized.
The SACP recognizes the historical role of the City Press as a platform to fight the legacy of apartheid and racism particularly.
Both parties agreed that the rights to dignity and the rights to freedom of expression are important rights to be defended by all South Africans.
The SACP delegation explained why there was such huge outrage at Murray`s painting and why it had called for a boycott of the City Press. The SACP is clear that in a democracy it has the right to boycott media that tramples on people`s dignity. While understanding people`s anger, the SACP condemns any intimidation of and threats to the staff of City Press. The SACP also stressed that it supports the right of the media to criticize politicians, provided that this does not undermine their rights to dignity, and believes that media can play a major role in deepening and advancing democracy.
The City Press welcomed the meeting with the SACP, and explained that reporting did not necessarily mean endorsement. City Press explained that the media by its very nature regularly published material that did not necessarily express the views of its editors or staff.
The City Press stressed that it did not believe that a boycott of newspapers was the way to deal with difference between political organisations and the media, more so when those calling for the boycott had access to decision-makers at the newspaper.
The SACP and City Press agreed that the experiences around The Spear should ultimately serve to create a better understanding between the media, its consumers and political organisations in the interests of consolidating media freedom and our democracy.
The SACP and City Press agreed that there should be regular meetings between political organisations and the media to create better understanding of the nature, roles, responsibilities and challenges of roleplayers in their respective spheres in order to advance media freedom and democracy in this country.
The SACP welcomes the initiatives of the Editor of the City Press so far in apologizing and withdrawing the painting from its website, and raised further issues with the City Press in this regard.
The SACP will engage with the ANC and its other Alliance partners on the issues raised at the meeting, including the boycott of the City Press, and what can be done to take matters positively forward.
082 226 1802
City Press Media Officer
071 35 40165