Thursday, March 26, 2020

Pretoria: Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, says government’s classification of media work as an essential service during the COVID-19 national state of disaster and lockdown is a measure to ensure South Africans and the international community have access to vital information during this time.

“In South Africa, the space, airtime and social media engagement devoted by quality journalism to the outbreak and the national response, has contributed in reducing misinformation, negative impact of fake news and unfounded panic emerging from some social media users and other sources,” Mthembu said.

He expressed government’s appreciation for the role played by media in the country and internationally in bringing information to South Africans from all walks of life and geographic locations.

“In a moment of crisis such as we are experiencing, journalism that informs, enlightens, empowers and brings hope to citizens and stakeholders, is an important national asset and necessity.

“In the weeks ahead during the national lockdown, the engagement between government – through the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) – and public, community and commercial media will help us ensure that people understand and implement the stringent measures that are in effect in the country,” Mthembu said.

In line with the designation of media as an essential service, Mthembu said government is requesting media  and broadcast organisations, especially those who are actively covering the current disaster, to ensure that journalists and broadcast technical crews and distributors are in possession at all times of press cards, personal identity documents or corporate identity cards at all times.

“Letters from employers vouching for staff members or freelancers will also make it easier for law-enforcement officers to process media workers’ access to story locations. Given that media workers are citizens first and foremost, government urges employers to ensure that media workers have access to protective supplies and equipment that will keep them safe and will safeguard the wellbeing of persons with whom media workers may come into contact,” Mthembu said.

He added that with the assistance of State Information Technology Agency (SITA) government has increased its infrastructure capacity to ensure that the website is available at all times.

“We also finalising arrangements to ensure we provide uninterrupted alternative media opportunities via live streaming, to limit the numbers of people who are together in a single venue at any given point in time.

“Government is doing its best to balance the provision of information with the preservation of the good health and life of all stakeholders during this period,” Mthembu said.

The Minister has also urged all South Africans to play their part to contain the spread of the virus, and to protect the health and life of all.