ANC slams Press Freedom Commission

The ANC has sharply criticised the newly formed Press Freedom Commission, saying its formation will not result in the required reform of the South African media.

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

After sounding opinion among industry players and the public, the commission will produce a report on press freedom in South Africa in the next eight months. This will be used as a departure point for any changes to self-regulatory mechanisms.

But at the launch ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu told the media the commission is already flawed by wanting to focus only on self-regulation.
“If you get a group of eminent people to investigate media control with specific reference to your favoured mechanism, 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, joining forces in scrutinising the best practice for media self-regulation.

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

The launch of the commission comes at a time of heightened tension between the media and government, with the ANC apparently renewing its push for a statutory media appeals tribunal.

Langa was unapologetic about the commission’s mandate of scrutinising self-regulation, saying that it saw this as the preferred option for media control.

“Let’s push the boundaries of this self-regulation until it is found to fail. Then people are entitled to look for something else effective,” Langa said.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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