26 July 2010

South Africa: Editors Rebuff Media Tribunal Idea

Photo: AllAfrica
Members of the international and local press corps waited to record President Yar'Adua's first state visit to South Africa. In the background is a statue of Louis Botha, Afrikaner fighter against British colonialism, on horseback.

Johannesburg — SOUTH African editors yesterday vowed to resist attempts to institute a state-appointed media tribunal and rejected legislation that they said restricted public access to information.

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) said yesterday that there was an existing system of media self-regulation, involving the Press Council and Press Ombudsman. It vowed to campaign for public support for media freedom, and urged a "zero-tolerance" approach to press code violations.

Addressing editors on Saturday, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said that in exercising the right to free expression, there was a duty to guard against "furtherance of propaganda for war and incitement of imminent violence, to name just a few examples".

Mr Radebe's remarks were seen as alluding to a media tribunal, first proposed at the ANC's Polokwane conference in 2007. But he said the media would not be treated as the apartheid regime treated black journalists, and invited the media to participate in drafting legislation.

Mr Radebe said proposals on policy issues -- including section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act, which can compel journalists to reveal confidential sources -- would be released this week. The African National Congress is expected to consider proposals for a tribunal in September.

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