“We want to be clear, we are advocating an independent regulation of the media, unencumbered by commercial or political party interests,” ANC executive committee member Jessie Duarte told the Press Freedom Commission (PFC) in Johannesburg.
“The ANC believes in independent regulation. This may differ with the interpretation that is commonly assigned to our proposal, which has been misinterpreted as having state regulation of the media.”
Duarte was joined by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu at the PFC’s public hearing.
Mthembu suggested Parliament look into the possibility of forming an independent body in the same vein as the office of the public protector and Independent Electoral Commission.
“Such a body should not have a vested interest in business, politics or the media itself,” he said.
“The ANC cannot tell Parliament what to come up with, only that they find something that will satisfy all of South Africa.”
Duarte said the appeals tribunal was needed because print media was, in her view, dominated by shabby journalism, irresponsible reporting, an ineffective press ombudsman and a lack of accountability.
Mthembu said the tribunal would impose penalties and sanctions on an agency or publication regardless of the severity of its infractions. It would have an accountability mechanism that would sanction without compromising constitutionally protected rights.
“With the Press Council and ombudsman, the assumption is always the same and the publication just withdraws the story and apologises – immaterial of the severity,” he said.
“We do not want something that is anti-media. The struggle that all of us engaged in has made a free media possible.”
Former Sunday Times editor and current Avusa editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya said the Press Council was still an effective regulatory body for print media.
“The currency of our profession is credibility, without it we are nothing. Apologising is an effective sanction. Journalists do not want to stand in front of the public and say they were wrong,” he said.