Respect for and compliance with the decisions of the press council.
The Press Council of SA said that the print media should continue to regulate itself while beefing up its oversight bodies and codes. The council endorsed the system of media self-regulation and proposed sweeping changes to the South African Press Code and the functioning of the office of the press ombudsman following the release of a task team report after a year-long probe wherein they examined over 100 various press codes from around the world. This finding raised respect for and compliance with the decisions of the press council.
The report was commissioned amid complaints by the African National Congress about media coverage and proposals at its 2007 national conference to set up a media appeals tribunal to replace the existing self-regulation of the media.
“The wide-ranging survey of media regulatory practices undertaken convinced the task team and the press council that statutory regulation is not warranted in South Africa and that self-regulation remains the best option for Countries with strong traditions of freedom of expression and that have optimum co-operation among the media, practice self-regulation”, the council said.
A member of the task team, Professor Franz Kruger of the University of the Witwatersrand, said the press council prefer not to get involved in the proposed media tribunal. “We don’t want any relationship with the media tribunal. We have reaffirmed our position that self-regulation is the best practice. The tribunal is a bad idea,” he said at a presentation of the report in Johannesburg.
The report recommended restructuring the press council to include a director to deal with the public on press standards and media freedom and a public advocate to help people with their complaints against the media. It further suggested the appointment of an ombudsman to arbitrate matters not resolved through negotiation and a chair of appeals to deal with appeals as well as extended jurisdiction of the ombudsman’s office to the online publications of its members.
The report found that imposing fines on newspapers was not a good idea; instead the use of peer pressure and the publication of apologies and retractions should continue. Amendments to the press code including sections on children’s rights, guidelines on privacy, dignity and reputation, and on independence and avoiding conflicts of interest were also proposed.
Proposed complains line
Guidelines for the use of confidential and anonymous sources should be expanded and rules about discrimination and hate speech should be tightened. Various measures to make the complaints process more accessible were recommended, such as advertising hearings and having a toll-free number to make it easier to complain.
Industry bodies are currently considering the content of the report and includes the press freedom commission chaired by former Chief Justice Pius Langa, SA National Editors’ Forum, the Newspaper Association of SA, the Forum for Community Journalists, the Magazine Publishers’ Association of SA and the Association of Independent Publishers of SA.
“We believe the final outcome will result in a strong and effective press council acting as a watchdog over press misdemeanor, while promoting excellence in the practice of journalism and upholding the freedom and independence of the press are essential elements in promoting the concepts of democracy,,” said Press Council chair Raymond Louw.
SABC 2 covered a media discussion between key players of the print media on the proposed media regulatory practices yesterday 17 August 2015 – watch extracts of this discussion here.