President Barack Obama told American reporters to “behave” during a joint press conference with President Jacob Zuma of South Africa on Saturday.
Obama was warning U.S. journalists not to ask too many questions in one, complaining that “my press” tried too squeeze “three or four or five questions in there,” complimenting Zuma on his more compliant media.
(The Associated Press noted that “both U.S. and South African reporters asked multi-part questions,” though seconded Obama’s description of U.S. journalists as “his press corps.”)
Press freedom is being challenged in South Africa, where the ruling African National Congress (ANC) chafes at criticism of its difficulties and resents exposure of its numerous corruption scandals. Television networks are dominated by the government-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), which favors a pro-ANC line, and Internet media growth has been stunted by the state telecommunications monopoly, Telkom.
Yet Zuma, though frequently at loggerheads with local media, would hardly dare tell them to “behave.”
Obama’s admonition of American journalists is not the first time he has rebuked them in the presence of a foreign leader, on foreign soil.
In March, during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he scolded NBC reporter Chuck Todd for asking several questions, saying an Israeli reporter who asked only one question had “behaved” better.