7 April 2003
Working relations between the country’s media houses, political reporters and government is expected to improve following the launch of the Presidential Press Corps in Pretoria on Friday.
President Thabo Mbeki and the chairman of the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) Mathatha Tsedu formally inaugurated the corps.
The move follows the Sun City talks in 2001 between government and Sanef, where it was agreed to improve information-sharing between the Presidency and journalists.
Speaking to reporters at the ceremony, which was attended by several ministers, editors and leading reporters, Mbeki committed the government to make information available, adding that there should be a level of trust around sensitive issues such as off-the-record briefings and embargoes.
Mbeki added that government was not against criticism from the media, but stressed that it was equally important for journalists to understand government policies and issues so as to analyse and report fairly and accurately.
Government Communication and Information System chief executive Joel Netshitenzhe said the move would not exclude journalists who are not part of the press corps. “This is in addition to current arrangements, not a substitution,” he said.
Netshitenzhe added that journalists would still interact with government through the usual ministerial and departmental briefings and press conferences.