The Press Council of South Africa (PCSA) is to undertake a complete review of its constitution in the wake of criticisms which have emerged in debate over the ANC’s planned media appeals tribunal.
“We are dealing with a system of self-regulation, not regulation from outside,” Thloloe said about the composition of the team which would undertake the review.
“It is self-regulation because … if any outside institution tells editors what to put [into the papers] or not, it is contrary to Section 16 of the constitution … it interferes with the freedom of the press.”
The team would report back to the council with its findings and recommendations in November.
It would review the PCSA’s constitution, the South African Press Code and complaints procedures, Thloloe said in a statement.
The review would be conducted by the council’s deputy chairperson Bewyn Petersen; the Star‘s editor Moegsien Williams; University of the Witwatersrand journalism Professor Franz Kruger; and businessman and Press Appeals Panel (PAP) public representative Simon Mantel.
Also on the review team would be: businessman, former journalist and PAP press representative Peter Mann; and Sunday Times deputy managing editor and PAP press representative Susan Smuts.
Thloloe said any South African individual or organisation could contribute to the review by submitting suggestions on possible changes to the ombudsman’s office.
The constitution of the PCSA outlines its powers, jurisdiction, its aims and objectives and its membership.
The ANC has suggested that Parliament investigate the possibility of a statutory tribunal to regulate the print media, in line with a resolution made at its 52nd national conference in Polokwane in 2007.
The ANC has argued that self-regulation is not enough to keep the media in check.
The debate will continue when the party gathers in Durban in September for its mid-term policy meeting, the national general council.
Raymond Louw, chairperson of the PCSA, said in a statement earlier this month that he was “appalled” by the call for a tribunal, and said that the “manner in which this call is being made and the indications … that have been given of the objectives appear to be a clear violation of the Constitution in relation to the promotion of freedom of expression and media freedom”.
The imposing of such a tribunal on the press has “nothing to do with promoting press freedom but everything to do with the way the press reports on the conduct of governance, including the conduct of Cabinet ministers and other senior officials of the party”.
The statement also took aim at “a startling ignorance about what goes on in the press ombudsman’s office”. – Sapa