Con­tentious me­dia tri­bunal still on the cards

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­

The ANC may not have em­phat­i­cally pushed for the dreaded me­dia ap­peals tri­bunal at its pol­icy con­fer­ence this week, but the con­tro­ver­sial pro­posed reg­u­la­tory sys­tem is not off the ta­ble.

Since its Polok­wane na­tional con­fer­ence in 2007, the ANC has ve­he­mently re­ferred to a need for a par­lia­men­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the de­sir­abil­ity of a me­dia ap­peals tri­bunal, which would ac­count to Par­lia­ment be­cause the party felt the press om­buds­man was in­her­ently bi­ased to­wards the me­dia and that lit­i­ga­tion was ex­pen­sive. Crit­ics of the pro­posal have ques­tioned its con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity. The party this week did not use the words “me­dia ap­peals tri­bunal” when re­port­ing back on the dis­cus­sions of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions sub­com­mit­tee. In­stead, chair­per­son of the ANC’s sub­com­mit­tee on com­mu­ni­ca­tion Jackson Mthembu fo­cused on the call for an ur­gent par­lia­men­tary in­quiry that would in­ves­ti­gate the best way to reg­u­late print me­dia.

He re­it­er­ated that the ANC wanted coreg­u­la­tion of print me­dia done by a body ap­pointed by Par­lia­ment as the party felt that not enough had been done to deal with the grievances of the peo­ple and the ANC in re­la­tion to the ac­count­abil­ity of print me­dia.

“We are not say­ing what then should be the modal­i­ties of hold­ing print me­dia ac­count­able. We are say­ing we have a Par­lia­ment that all of us have voted for and, in 2012 we came with a res­o­lu­tion that the Par­lia­ment of the repub­lic must take for­ward this dis­course.

“Is independent reg­u­la­tion the way to go or is sel­f­reg­u­la­tion? Or is what we have now termed af­ter the com­mis­sion coreg­u­la­tion the way to go? We will come and make our own in­put to the me­dia in­quiry. What the com­mis­sion had said is that that me­dia in­quiry must hap­pen now,” said Mthembu.

He said print me­dia con­tin­ued to play an im­por­tant role, even in this age of con­ver­gence and there­fore “your means of ac­count­abil­ity is im­por­tant”.

“With this role, you can ef­fect regime change, you can make gov­ern­ments fall and you can make in­sti­tu­tions fall be­cause of the power that you hold. How do we en­sure that you act re­spon­si­bly as a peo­ple?”

He said Par­lia­ment would look at what should be the best mech­a­nism to hold the print me­dia ac­count­able.

“Is your reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment, as it ex­ists now, pro­mot­ing this ac­count­abil­ity, or do we need an­other mech­a­nism to hold you ac­count­able as print me­dia?”

Mthembu told City Press that the ANC was not seek­ing to reg­u­late con­tent, but wanted a body in which it would have con­fi­dence that it could deal with nonob­jec­tive jour­nal­ism. The body would be independent of gov­ern­ment, independent of the print me­dia and of pri­vate busi­ness in­flu­ence.

An ANC mem­ber who par­tic­i­pated in the dis­cus­sions told City Press that, while the party has not aban­doned its pre­vi­ous res­o­lu­tion for the es­tab­lish­ment of a me­dia ap­peals tri­bunal, the com­mis­sion de­cided to “trust the par­lia­men­tary process”.

The push for the me­dia tri­bunal al­legedly came from KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC Youth League and the ANC Women’s League, which ar­gued that the me­dia spread lies about peo­ple and, once found guilty of wrong­do­ing, would hide the apology in the back pages.

“But oth­ers pushed back, say­ing let’s trust the par­lia­men­tary process,” said the source.

The source said con­cerns were also raised in re­la­tion to Independent Me­dia and The New Age news­pa­per’s de­ci­sion to with­draw from the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Press Coun­cil of SA.

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