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DA: Is Muthambi in China for propaganda lessons?

What knowledge can South Africa’s communications minister hope to acquire “from a one-party state that was ranked 176 out of 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index”?

This is one of the questions posed by Democratic Alliance (DA) communications spokesperson Gavin Davis about “Faith Muthambi leading a delegation to China that included SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) chairperson Obert Maghuve and newly appointed CEO Frans Matlala”.

When questioned about the purpose of the trip at a sitting of Parliament’s communications portfolio committee‚ Davis said SABC deputy chairperson Leah Khumalo was “curiously evasive”.

“After twice avoiding the question‚ she would only say that the committee will be furnished with a full report in due course.”

In a later statement‚ Muthambi said: “This visit serves as good opportunity to learn more about China and its development in broadcast and the broader TV industry. It is also meant to lay a foundation for further exchange and co-operation in these fields between the two countries.”

Davis‚ however‚ ventured a more sinister motive.

“Maybe she is interested in learning more about the Chinese government’s system of licensing journalists – a similar proposal was mooted by the SABC’s own (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng last year. Chinese journalists who fall foul of government’s content restrictions can be fired‚ blacklisted and even jailed‚” he said.

“If Muthambi is specifically interested in Chinese broadcasting‚ she will no doubt pick up some pointers from the Minister of State Administration of Press‚ Publication‚ Radio‚ Film and Television (who) has full control of China Central Television and China National Radio‚ and ensures that all content accords with the views of the Chinese government.”

Davis said that while Muthambi has always denied that she was deployed to set up a party propaganda machine in government‚ “these protestations ring hollow in the face of her intention to learn from one of the most sophisticated and repressive state propaganda systems in the world”.


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