Newspapers should embrace balanced recommendations
The Times Editorial: The Press Freedom Commission yesterday announced its recommendations on how to regulate the print media.
Announced in Johannesburg before most of the country's newspaper editors and the ANC's secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, the recommendations appeared to find the best middle ground - between the existing self-regulation and the government's desire for a media appeals tribunal.
The commission has recommended an independent regulatory system comprising members of the public and the media.
Most importantly, the mechanism is intended to be independent of the government, a hugely reassuring aspect for those who have been concerned that the ANC was bent on significantly curbing the media's freedom.
Mantashe made some generally approving remarks at yesterday's launch, saying the report had "taken everybody out of their comfort zone, from the extremes of the [proposed] statutory regulatory framework and the total self-regulatory framework, to the centre, which gives legitimacy to the body, and gives a fair balance to regulation".
The ANC will now take the proposals to its policy conference in June.
An important road lies ahead for print media. Battered by constant criticism, particularly from the ruling party, the media will now have to decide - through the SA National Editors' Forum - whether they will accept the broad reforms offered by the commission.
And they are broad, from the sanctions that will be applied to the way in which offended parties can complain. Properly implemented, they could lead to welcome reform in the commercial newspaper landscape.
In order for it to work, the print media as a whole will have to accept yesterday's findings.
What is clear from the report is that the nine commissioners have delivered a remarkable, significant and largely positive piece of work.