The African National Congress (ANC) has defended its push for a controversial media tribunal and called on Parliament to consider the press oversight body.
“It should be Parliament that investigates its desirability and feasibility. That investigation could go either way,” senior ANC official Pallo Jordan was quoted as saying by the South African Press Association on Friday.
“The existing self-regulatory system with the press ombudsman and press council is ineffective and needs to be strengthened,” said Jordan, who is a member of the party’s national executive committee.
The party has proposed that a media appeals tribunal be established, which would hear complaints against the press and have authority to impose legal penalties on journalists.
However, South African journalists say the proposals are an attempt to stifle a press corps that has embarrassed the ANC by exposing official corruption, uncovering scandals and reporting on internal party disputes.
Speaking at the ANC national general council, Jordan said that if Parliament agreed that a media appeals tribunal was needed, the ANC recommended that it be “independent of commercial and party political interference” and should not be in the form of pre-publication censorship.
The proposal comes as Parliament considers a separate Protection of Information Bill that would give the government broad powers to classify information and impose jail terms of up to 25 years for publishing it.
Together, the measures have raised fears of an ANC campaign to stifle the freedom of speech. — AFP
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