Thu Dec 08 16:23:11 SAST 2016

Tribunal seeks chapter and verse on print media

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2012-02-01 00:06:20.0

The Times Editorial: The ANC yesterday gave its clearest indication yet of its vision for the media appeals tribunal it wants to establish to regulate the print media.

Speaking at the Press Freedom Commission in Johannesburg yesterday, the ANC's Jessie Duarte, Jackson Mthembu and Gwede Mantashe passionately put forward their party's view of the current state of the print media in South Africa.

As far as they are concerned, the media is untransformed and unfair. According to them, the press ombudsman's office is essentially a powerless entity that lacks independence.

Mooted since the ANC's last elective conference in Polokwane, the tribunal has never gone away and, judging by the ANC's presentation yesterday, is likely to gain momentum as the party's Mangaung conference in December draws closer.

But, for the first time, some idea was offered in terms of the tribunal's format.

Both Mthembu and Duarte referred to the Public Protector, the Independent Electoral Commission and the Auditor-General as virtuous examples of independent institutions and the vital role that Chapter 9 institutions play in South Africa.

But herein lies the problem with the ANC's proposal - parliament acts as an oversight body for Chapter 9 institutions, negating any notion of an independent regulatory body.

How will the media appeals tribunal maintain its independence when it must report to a parliament in which the ANC is the majority party? In this guise, the tribunal will regulate the media at the behest of a political party.

The ANC insists it has struggled for South Africa's media to be free. The tribunal - on the basis of yesterday's submission - provides the ruling party with the mechanism to severely limit that freedom.

Judging from the vociferous criticism of the print media by Duarte, Mantashe and Mthembu yesterday, there is no middle ground to be negotiated. Their and their party's intention is clear: rein in the print media.

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