/ 21 December 2007

ANC still mulling media tribunal

The African National Congress (ANC) plans to examine further a proposal to set up a media tribunal, the party said on Friday.

The notion was discussed and adopted at the ANC national conference this week, said ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama. A task team will now be set up to investigate ”the necessity or otherwise” of a media tribunal.

However, no time line is available of when this team might be established, nor details of its participants, said Ngonyama.

It is envisaged that the tribunal could serve as an ”appeal division” whereby members of the public could submit complaints against the media. The tribunal would be ”against self-regulation” in the media.

The ANC discussion document on the media, titled Communications and the Battle of Ideas, includes a proposal to investigate self-regulation in the media, and whether remedial measures may be required to safeguard and promote the rights of all South Africans.

The document also calls on the government to increase its funding of the public broadcaster as the current model compromises its public-service mandate.

It also says that the media should foster and develop social cohesion and promote the building of consensus on a common set of values, and support national unity and pride as a South African nation.

Media analysts have expressed some concerns about a proposed media tribunal.

Earlier this year, the South African National Editors’ Forum said the tribunal could result in restrictions on the media. The Freedom of Expression Institute said in October that the proposals implied the ANC ”may be considering state regulation as a viable alternative to self-regulation, which will threaten media freedom”.

On Friday, Ngonyama abruptly ended his conversation because he said he was busy watching President Thabo Mbeki present a press conference, days after Mbeki was voted out of his position as ANC president. — Sapa