/ 7 July 2011

ANC slams Press Freedom Commission’s naïveté

Anc Slams Press Freedom Commission's Naïveté

The ruling African National Congress has sharply criticised the newly formed Press Freedom Commission (PFC), saying its formation will not result in the reforms required for the South African media.

Launched in Johannesburg on Thursday, the PFC will investigate self-regulation mechanisms within South Africa’s print media and was formed at the behest of the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and Print Media South Africa (PMSA).

Following consultations with stakeholders within the industry and the public at large, the PFC will over the next eight months produce a document entitled “The South African Press Freedom Report”. This will then be used as a departure point for any changes to the current processes of self-regulation within the media.

Speaking at the launch, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu told the media the PFC was already flawed, in that it focused only on self-regulation.

“If you get a group of eminent people to investigate media control with specific reference to your favoured mechanisms, they will be nothing more than the playboys of Sanef and PMSA,” Mthembu said.

The commission will be chaired by former Chief Justice Pius Langa and will see experts from several fields including law, business and the media itself join forces to scrutinise the best practices for self-regulation in the media.

Other members of the commission include: Archbishop Thabo Makgoba; law professor Kobus van Rooyen; businesswoman Futhi Mtoba; advocate Anshal Bodasing; academic Phil Mthimkulu; labour specialist Derick Elbrecht; marketing executive Santie Botha; and international representative Professor Kwame Karikari from Ghana.

The commission’s inception comes at a time of heightened tension between the media and government, and a concerted effort within the ruling party to push for the implementation of a statutory media appeals tribunal to review complaints made against the media.

The ANC has spoken of the possibility of harsher punishment for journalism that is found wanting in terms of fairness and truth, even going so far as to suggest court action and jail time for proven offenders.

Langa was unapologetic about the commission’s mandate of scrutinising self-regulation, saying it was considered by the commission to be the preferred option for media controls.

“Lets push the boundaries of this self-regulation until it is found to fail; only then will people be entitled to look for something else more effective,” Langa said.