Address by President Nelson Mandela to the Black Editors' Forum

27 October 1995


I understand, Thami, that you have come here for a brief moment on your way to quite a difficult examination sitting. We should congratulate you for your courage and for honouring us in this way. We wish you all the luck.

Since the Black Editors' Forum did me the great honour of inviting me to this breakfast meeting, there has been a certain amount of turmoil amongst the editors of our country's newspapers. This was to be expected. Because, in the reconstruction of our country, each sector and structure must undergo its own transformation.

It is important that the issues are handled frankly, so that the unity that should surely emerge from this process is real, unpretentious and enduring. The recent moves towards establishing an all-embracing forum for editors are most encouraging; and we hope that they will facilitate the transformation required in South Africa's media.


The recent debate on mediation on the issue of foreign investment in the media. My own impression is that this has been raised in a manner than can divert us from the central question of diversity.

I say this because foreign investment resources, innovation and technology. But, it can also help to entrench the current make-up of management and leadership. Foreign investment can stimulate diversity by opening up new vistas for blacks. But it can also entrench monopoly control.

In other words, there is nothing in foreign investment that depends on how such investment advances the cause of diversity and empowerment; and ensures an orientation in content that is truly South African.


It is common cause that we have inherited institutions of print and broadcast media whose account of our society reflected the unequal distribution of political and economic power.

In so far as the electronic media is concerned, we have confidence that the Independent Broadcasting Authority will take this into account, when it set up the new radio and TV dispensation.

It is right that you, as senior media workers, are seized with these issues. It is your calling to keep your country well-informed. Nevertheless, we should also guard against the belief that media institutions which are more representative, whether in ownership, editorship or operations, will by that fact alone give South Africa the journalism it deserves.

That indeed is your greatest challenge. Perhaps more than anyone else in your profession, journalists from the previously excluded communities are required to strive for excellence in the standards of a new and reinvigorated journalism.

Above all, black intellectuals are called upon to take more active part in debates within society. They are called upon to take an interest in journalism. For, it does not assist the cause of diversity if black intellectuals are seen to be passive in national discourse; and if journalists are seen to abandon the profession in large numbers. It does not help the cause, if black entrepreneurs do not develop an interest in the media industry.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation