Zuma defends plan for media tribunal
President Jacob Zuma has defended the ANC's proposal for a media appeals tribunal, saying the print media has overstepped the limits of their freedom and caused severe distress to many people.
"It's not fair," President Jacob Zuma complained in parliament today as he defended the ANC's plan for a media appeals tribunal to help regulate the South African press.
Responding to a question from Democratic Alliance leader Athol Trollip, Zuma said newspapers did not adequately respect human dignity and, when they made mistakes, their apologies meant little.
"The manner in which the media has been reporting over the years - it seemed to be overstepping the boundaries that should guide it in terms of the freedom of the media. There seems to be no distinction between the respect for the dignity of other people and the manner in which it was reporting," he said.
In an apparent reference to coverage of his own domestic life, Zuma said: "We are concerned because a lot of pain has been caused by how the media has been reporting on certain individuals in the country.
"When the media reports about individuals, about citizens, you have huge headlines and a picture of the person. And when they discover that in fact their reporting was erronous, and they agree to retract, they don't give the same equal weight - the apology is hidden somewhere small inside.
"When the media recognises that this is indeed a mistake, the response is absolutely meaningless. It's not fair. It's not fair to the individual. They (the media) don't project the issue at the same level," he said.
Zuma said the ANC was proposing that parliament should take charge of designing a media appeals tribunal to ensure it would be transparent and independent.
In his first reference, he said the tribunal would be a panel to which individuals could appeal if they were unhappy with the response of the existing Press Council, which manages the office of the ombudsman.
Later, he said the tribunal would take up issues on behalf of poor people who could not afford legal support.
He promised that the ANC would not suppress press freedom, saying the party had fought for freedom of expression in the liberation struggle.