Media self-regulation is ideal

The most remarkable thing about the ANC’s input at hearings of the Press Freedom Commission this week was not its determination to create a media appeals tribunal, but the fact that it participated at all.

It was an important step forward, given that the party had previously decried the futility of the commission’s work in reviewing press regulation. Even their little argument with former chief justice Pius Langa about the independence of Parliament was instructive. It is called dialogue.

Also worthy of attention were the starkly divergent contributions of some of the most powerful women in our society: the ANC’s head of communications, Jessie Duarte, and the Independent Electoral Commission chair and African Union rapporteur on freedom of expression, Pansy Tlakula.

Public protector Thuli Madonsela’s presentation was a carefully researched argument for self-regulation and a thorough critique of its present deficiencies. Her proposed remedies included that the system be more proactive than reactive, that the office of the ombudsman be separated from the Press Council and that it introduce more effective and binding sanctions.

Tlakula, speaking in her AU capacity, gave a warning about the damage she had seen done elsewhere on the continent by statutory regulation and the risk that South Africa might set a poor precedent for Africa. Duarte and the ANC delegation, by contrast, made broad claims about standards, ­ideology and transformation, unsupported by any data. Despite efforts to fudge the debate Duarte made it clear the ANC had made up its mind to do away with self-regulation and replace it with what it calls “independent” regulation and parliamentary oversight.

The Mail & Guardian’s view is that this approach will lead directly to political controls and that an improved system of voluntary self-regulation, which draws on credible people from outside the media business to help police ethical standards, is the right solution for South Africa. For those who smell self-interest in the insistence of editors and publishers that self-regulation is the democratic gold standard, it is worth listening to people like Madonsela and Tlakula who have neither economic nor personal motives for supporting a free press. This debate is only going to get tougher. We will be making a noise about it all year and we hope you will join us.

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

In East Africa, the locusts are coming back for more

In February the devastating locust swarms were the biggest seen in East Africa for 70 years. Now they’re even bigger

Western Cape Judge Mushtak Parker faces second misconduct complaint

The Cape Bar Council says his conduct is ‘unbecoming the holding of judicial office’

‘My biggest fear was getting the virus and dying in...

South African Wuhan evacuee speaks about his nine-week ordeal

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories