Ministry of Propaganda and toeing the ANC line

The DA has called on communications minister Faith Muthambi to refute a report that the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) is to withhold advertising from newspapers that do not toe the ANC line.

The Mail and Guardian reported on Friday that the government intended implementing a plan to “starve” the Sunday Times, Mail and Guardian, and City Press of advertising worth millions of rand.

An unnamed government official was quoted as saying the three newspapers had sustained “an anti-ANC and anti-government onslaught” on the “democratic state”.

The Mail and Guardian reported that the biggest beneficiary of the switch in advertising would be Independent Newspapers, under the ownership of Iqbal Surve.

The ANC hit back, saying that the report that top newspapers are being punished for insulting President Jacob Zuma is mischievous.

“The allegation is wrong and mischievous. It suggests that government cannot consider austerity measures in relation to media buying,” ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said.

“Government has a right to cut costs where it can,” said Kodwa, adding that the accusation that the three newspapers were being punished was false.

Muthambi must refute the report: DA

The DA has called on minister Muthambi, who is in charge of the GCIS, to refute the Mail and Guardian report.

“If she does not, she will confirm – once and for all – that her new department is the ‘Ministry of Propaganda’ we have been warning about,” the DA said.

The DA added that the plan to withhold government advertising from these newspapers was confirmed by the head of the ANC’s communications subcommittee, Lindiwe Zulu.

“How do you continue to pay people who insult you? What’s that? Something needs to give,” the DA quoted Zulu as saying.

“It is time the ANC understood that using public money for party political propaganda is an abuse of power,” the DA said.

“The job of GCIS is to inform and educate citizens of their rights and the government services available to them, not to push the message of the political party in power.”

The DA said that if government is planning to withhold advertising from newspapers on the basis of their reportage, Minister Muthambi must come out and defend the policy.

“This is an ideal opportunity for her to put what she learned on her media skills training course to the test,” the DA said.

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Ministry of Propaganda and toeing the ANC line