/ 4 May 2008

ANC backpedals over plans for media tribunal

The establishment of a media tribunal in South Africa should not be viewed as interfering with press freedom, the African National Congress (ANC) on Saturday.

Spokesperson Jessie Duarte said the ANC was only making a proposal and that it was open to public debate.

”The ANC’s position on this has absolutely nothing to do with interfering with press freedom,” Duarte said.

She said the ANC had observed that whenever the print media had misquoted or made a factual mistake, they would ”bury” the apology in the inside pages.

”The media, especially print, would put an apology where the readers would not easily notice,” she said.

Duarte, who was commenting on World Press Freedom day that fell on Saturday, said this was totally ”unacceptable”.

She said the ANC would continue to advance press freedom as long as the constitutional rights of all South Africans were respected.

The South African National Editors’ Forum on Friday voiced concern at the ANC’s proposed media tribunal.

It believed self-regulation was the best mechanism to ensure a free and open press, Sanef said in a statement.

Meanwhile, South African Human Rights Commission’s chairperson Jody Kollapen has called on the media to remain vigilant against attempts to undermine their critical role.

Kollapen said the media should not only focus on media restrictions but also on their ”self imposed” restrictions.

”There is need for the media to reflect on itself. They often focus on media restrictions and ignore the kind of restrictions they impose on themselves,” he said.

He said although South Africa’s level of press freedom was good, there was need for the media to remain vigilant. – Sapa