AfricaFocus (Washington, DC)

South Africa: Media Matters

Washington, DC — "The current debate needs to interrogate the desire for secrecy against the right to information in a society in which the lack of socio-economic rights diminishes the ability to access political and civil rights and vice-versa. It is a vicious cycle that the further secrecy of the Protection of Information Bill, will only deepen. The right to access to information that government itself has put in place since 1994 needs to be upheld not undermined." - Pregs Govender, Deputy Chair, South African Human Rights Commission

One may well debate how well South Africa's media have used the freedom they have enjoyed since South Africa's democratic election in 1994. But there can be no doubt that the Constitution set an enviable model for other African (and non-African) states.

Two proposals this year, for a new Protection of Information Act and a new Media Appeals Tribunal, have provoked outrage and concern both from media and civil society that South Africa's political leaders may retreat to emulating either their apartheid-era predecessors or other African states with less exemplary records. While one can rightly criticize the record of the media, government justifications for the new measures have the distinct ring of hypocrisy.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several commentaries related to these measures: (1) a statement from the Right to Know Campaign, endorsed by over 9,000 individuals and 350 organizations, (2) a commentary by Pregs Governder, deputy chair of the South African Human Rights Commission, (3) a blog commentary by Mariama Keita of the Committee to Protect Journalists comparing the South Africa media proposal to the history of a similar institution in Nigeria, and (4) a report from the Daily Maverick on compromises being proposed by the ANC on the Media Tribunal.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, sent out today by e-mail and available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs10/med1010a.php) contains an article reviewing the situation of media in Africa by veteran journalist Kwame Karikari, a short commentary by journalist Thapelo Ndlovu of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, and a press release from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers on the campaign for the Declaration of Table Mountain, calling for the repeal of insult and defamation laws, which are often used against the press. -- Editor's Note

Let the truth be told: Stop the Secrecy Bill!

http://www.right2know.org.za

A responsive and accountable democracy that can meet the basic needs of our people is built upon transparency and the free flow of information. The gains of South Africans' struggle for freedom are threatened by the Protection of Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill) currently before Parliament. We accept the need to replace apartheid-era secrecy legislation. However, this Bill extends the veil of secrecy in a manner reminiscent of that same apartheid past.

This Bill fundamentally undermines the struggle for whistleblower protection and access to information. It is one of a number of proposed measures which could have the combined effect of fundamentally undermining the right to access information and the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution.

Our concerns:

The Bill will create a society of secrets

  • Any state agency, government department, even a parastatal and your local municipality, can classify public information as secret. Anything and everything can potentially be classified as secret at official discretion if it is in the 'national interest'. Even ordinary information relating to service delivery can become secret.
  • Commercial information can be made secret, making it very difficult to hold business and government to account for inefficiency and corruption.
  • Anyone involved in the 'unauthorised' handling and disclosure of classified information can be prosecuted; not just the state official who leaks information as is the case in other democracies. The disclosure even of some information which is not formally classified can land citizens in jail. This will lead to self-censorship and have a chilling effect on free speech.
  • Whistleblowers and journalists could face more time in prison than officials who deliberately conceal public information that should be disclosed.
  • A complete veil is drawn over the workings of the intelligence services. It will prevent public scrutiny of our spies should they abuse their power or breach human rights.

Who will guard the guardians?

  • Officials do not need to provide reason for making information secret
  • There is no independent oversight mechanism to prevent information in the public interest from being made secret.
  • The Minister of State Security, whose business is secrecy, becomes the arbiter of what information across all of government must remain secret or may be disclosed to the public.
  • Even the leaking of secret information in the public interest is criminalised.
  • Unusually severe penalties of up to 25 years in prison will silence whistleblowers, civil society and journalists doing their job.
  • All these factors will limit public scrutiny of business and government, whether through Parliament or journalists. Accountability will be curtailed and service delivery to the people will be undermined.

Our demands:

  • The Constitution demands accountable, open and responsive government, realised among other things through freedom of expression and access to information. Our elected representatives are bound by these Constitutional values and any legislation they pass must comply. We demand that the Protection of Information Bill - the Secrecy Bill - must reflect the following:
  • Limit secrecy to core state bodies in the security sector such as the police, defence and intelligence agencies.
  • Limit secrecy to strictly defined national security matters and no more. Officials must give reasons for making information secret.
  • Exclude commercial information from this Bill.
  • Do not exempt the intelligence agencies from public scrutiny.
  • Do not apply penalties for unauthorised disclosure to society at large, only those responsible for keeping secrets.
  • An independent body appointed by Parliament, and not the Minister of Intelligence, should be the arbiter of decisions about what may be made secret.
  • Do not criminalise the legitimate disclosure of secrets in the public interest.

Sign on, circulate, educate, activate!

Who signs on:

  • Civil Society Organisations (South African based)
  • International friends (organisations) who share our concerns
  • Individuals

Who are we?

The Right2Know (R2K) Campaign is concerned that the Protection of Information Bill - also known as the Secrecy Bill - currently before Parliament will fundamentally undermine hard-won constitutional rights including access to information and freedom of expression.

R2K is an umbrella campaign representing a broad front of civil society groups. We believe a responsive and accountable democracy able to meet the basic needs of our people is built on transparency and the free flow of information. The R2K campaign statement -- "Let the truth be told. Stop the Secrecy Bill!" - was drafted following parliamentary hearings on the Bill in July 2010 and demands that secrecy legislation must comply with constitutional values. It is based upon detailed submissions made to Parliament by civil society groups.

Support for the Right2Know Campaign has snowballed since our initial launch in Cape Towns St. Georges Cathedral on August 31 which had the support of 200 organisations and 400 individuals. Two weeks later almost 350 civil society organisations (300 of which are based in South Africa) and 9,000 individuals now support the Campaign.

The statement characterises the Protection of Information Bill as fundamentally undermining the struggle for whistleblower protection and access to information and as reminiscent of our apartheid past. The statement calls for a redrafting of the Bill to comply with the constitutional values of access to information and freedom of expression.

The 350 civil society organisations endorsing the statement include Afesis-Corplan, the Alternative Information Development Centre, Amnesty International, Black Sash, Ceasefire Campaign, CIVICUS, Democracy Development Programme, Diakonia Council of Churches, Earthlife Africa, Freedom of Expression Institute, Gay & Lesbian Network, Idasa, Institute for Security Studies, Open Democracy Advice Centre, M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane), National Welfare Forum, Palestine Support Committee, Professional Journalists' Association, Section27, South African History Archives, and the South African National Editors Forum as well as various social movements including Equal Education, Social Justice Coalition, Social Movements Indaba, Treatment Action Campaign, and the Unemployed People's Movement.

Over 9000 individuals have also endorsed the Statement, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer, Prof Kader Asmal, Zakes Mda, Dr Max Price, Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Zackie Achmat, Prof. Njabulo Ndebele, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Mary Burton, Mazibuko K Jara, Andrew Feinstein, Richard Spoor, Andre Brink, Terry Bell, Laurie Nathan, Pierre de Vos, Max Du Preez, Paul Graham, Pippa Green, Prof Hoosen Coovadia and Breyten Breytenbach.

A full list of endorsing organizations and individuals is available on the website

South Africa: Secrecy As a Weapon of Oppression

Pregs Govender, 23 September 2010

http://www.pambazuka.org

* Pregs Govender is deputy chair of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). She chaired Independent Panel Review of Parliament (2007- 2008), was an ANC MP between 1994 - 2002 but resigned after being the only MP to register opposition to the arms deal in the Defence Budget Vote and holding public hearings on HIV/Aids in 2001. She is the author of Love and Courage: A Story of Insubordination (Jacana).

With concerns that a Protection of Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill) before South Africa's Parliament will create a secret state, Pregs Govender writes that debate needs to interrogate the desire for secrecy against the right to information in a society in which the lack of socio-economic rights diminishes the ability to access political and civil rights and vice versa.

Secrecy has been and remains integral to the oppression of people and to the exploitation of land and mineral resources across the world. Colonisation, genocide, slavery and apartheid were all dependent on secrecy. Those who abuse power depend on secrecy to deny others their rights - within and through states, corporations, religious, traditional, health, educational and media institutions as well as homes and families.

Secrecy enabled apartheid to create a highly militarised, authoritarian, unjust and unequal society. Those who exposed its secrets were detained, banished or killed by its security and intelligence forces. However, apartheid seldom completely silenced their voices. From Ruth First to Steve Biko, their examples inspired and laid the foundation for our right to freedom of expression.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, poor women in urban and rural areas shared information, united and stood against soldiers, vigilantes and oppressive chiefs and husbands. Information was critical to struggles for the right to life, freedom from violence, land, decent housing, healthcare, education, sanitation, water and other socio-economic rights. On the factory floor, bosses could not plead poverty because workers had accessed information about their massive profits and salaries.

The world's citizens were mobilised by information on how their money was used by their country's banks, mining and arms industries to serve apartheid. Ruth First's expose of farm-owners in Bethal entrenched a tradition of investigative journalism that revealed who carried the real cost. Despite Thatcher and Reagan's powerful media machine that described Mandela as 'the terrorist who should hang' informed citizens stood in solidarity against apartheid.

SA's democracy adopted a Constitution that signaled a significant shift from the culture of secrecy that characterised our apartheid, capitalist and patriarchal past to an open, free society characterised by democratic transparency and accountability. It proclaimed that: 'Everyone has the right of access to any information held by the state; and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.'

The preamble of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA) states that 'the system of government in SA before 1994, resulted in a secretive and unresponsive culture in public and private bodies which often led to an abuse of power and human rights violations'. PAIA placed a duty on public and private bodies to share information that would enable the poor and the powerless to hold accountable those with the power and resources to undermine or uphold their human rights.

The Constitution established independent statutory institutions to 'support Constitutional Democracy' such as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The SAHRC's mandate is to 'promote respect for human rights and a culture of human rights; to promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights and monitor and assess the observance of human rights'. In addition the SAHRC has a specific PAIA mandate. It has, among other things, to: 'Compile and make available a guide on how to use this Act; submit reports to the National Assembly; to the extent that financial and other resources are available it has to develop and conduct educational programmes; encourage public and private bodies to participate in the development and conduct of these programmes; make recommendations for the development, modernisation, reform or amendment of this Act and train information officers and deputy information officers of public bodies.'

The SAHRC, with very limited resources but with dedicated staff, compiled the PAIA guide; submitted annual reports to Parliament; conducted educational programmes; trained large numbers of government's information officers and their deputies on their duty to ensure that the poor access the information they need from government departments. However, PAIA (Section 83.2) recognises that for the SAHRC to fully effect its Constitutional and legislative mandate, it has to have 'financial and other resources', including a dedicated Information commissioner, who has still not been appointed. Compliance with this provision means that government cannot continue to decrease the SAHRC's financial and human resources, as it has been doing, (for example from the Mandela administration to the current administration the number of commissioners has reduced by almost 50 per cent).

To ensure access to information in the context of a Bill that will diminish and deny this right, the SAHRC can play the role envisaged in civil society submissions such as that of Laurie Nathan, if it has the necessary 'financial and other resources'. After too short a time and too few resources to effectively root PAIA within the public service, the Bill may quickly return the public service to the old bureaucratic culture of secrecy and impunity. In its 2009 Annual Report, the SAHRC reported to Parliament that under PAIA, 'More than 80% of local government structures remain non-compliant.'

What happens when the poor lose faith in democratic institutions, when their requests are not heeded and their opinions are not taken into account? People know that budgets (from national to local government) reflect policy priorities and choices. They reflect, more than any rhetorical speech, who and what is valued...or not. People want to know the basis for government's choices. A key factor in many protests is the lack of access to information.

Those protesting over the lack of service delivery see many green, well-watered golf courses in their local municipalities but no houses, toilets, schools, clinics or well-equipped and maintained playgrounds or sports-fields for their children. They ask who is benefiting from million-rand tenders when bridges collapse and children drown. They want to know why the cost of basic food is increasing and why their sick children have to make choices between food and medicine. Striking workers say society's claim to value their contribution to social reproduction through education and healthcare is not reflected in budget choices.

Ordinary citizens ask who profited from the arms-deals and the building of stadiums. They want to know what economic, trade and finance policies have resulted in them losing their jobs. They ask where are the rights and choices for poor girls trafficked into prostitution. They ask why, in the 21st century, they have no toilets or toilets without walls. They want answers not just on the symptoms of their poverty and lack of socio-economic rights but on the causes of their poverty. Parliament has the power to ensure that local to national government is held to account and that there is not an even greater sense of impunity and disrespect for compliance because of the Protection of Information Bill.

The SAHRC 2010 Parliamentary submission on the Protection of Information Bill critiques the bill from the perspective of the SAHRC's mandate to promote the right to access to information, the direct opposite of the 'Secrecy Bill'. Its submission builds on its earlier submissions on bills affecting information, including the 2008 version of this bill, and critiques the lack of harmonisation between information bills. The SAHRC submission concurs with many of the concerns of civil society, especially on the impact on the rights of whistleblowers and journalists. The SAHRC systematic clause by clause submission raises serious questions about matters such as:

'The 'Minister's unfettered powers; the broad definition of national interest (the bill states that "secrecy exists to protect the national interest"); decision-making around categorisation, classification, standards and procedures; the concentration of power in the state over information management and protection of information; the absence of a moderating independent body and the fact that non-disclosure on the basis of commercial or financial interests cannot be over-ridden by the public interest provided for in PAIA.'

Developing a human rights culture requires a transformation of institutions and mindsets. Post-1994, the culture of secrecy continued to characterise government's most controversial decisions including the adoption of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) economic plan, the arms-deal and the HIV/Aids debacle.

A recent comment by Ronnie Kasrils, the former minister who first introduced the 2008 Protection of Information Bill to deal with existing apartheid-era legislation, critiques the ease and danger of stepping back into old mind-sets. He argues, for example, that the current bill deletes 'a provision that provided for the automatic declassification (with limited exceptions) of all information classified before 10 May 1994 (i.e. apartheid-era classifications). This reflects an inexplicable desire to maintain apartheid era secrecy'.

The current debate needs to interrogate the desire for secrecy against the right to information in a society in which the lack of socio-economic rights diminishes the ability to access political and civil rights and vice-versa. It is a vicious cycle that the further secrecy of the Protection of Information Bill, will only deepen. The right to access to information that government itself has put in place since 1994 needs to be upheld not undermined. Those who are now entrusted with power and resources need to remain committed to responsive, transparent and accountable government.

With media plan, ANC copies Nigeria's military rulers

Committee for Protect Journalists, September 24, 2010

By Mariama Keita with Mohamed Keita/CPJ Africa Staff

* Mariama Keita, a freelance journalist, is an intern in CPJ's Africa program.

http://cpj.org/blog/author/mariama-keita

While South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) discusses the party's proposal for a media appeals tribunal, delegates should take note of a landmark ruling in Nigeria this year in which a High Court judge declared a government-dominated press council unconstitutional (http://thenationonlineng.net/web3/news/7108.html).

Five months before the ANC's release of a discussion document referencing a special tribunal for the media (http://www.anc.org.za/docs/discus/2010/mediad.pdf), Justice A.M. Liman, a judge of Nigeria's Federal High Court ruled in favor of a petition challenging the constitutionality of the Nigerian Press Council, set up by decree during military rule in 1992 (http://www.ipcng.org/under%20press%20council.html; http://www.presscouncil.gov.ng). The press council membership of 19 included representatives from the media, the public, and the government. "In theory this is fine, but in practice the majority of these posts are appointed by the government, including the current chairman who is not a journalist. He is an accountant," said Newspapers' Proprietors Association of Nigeria President Ajibola Ogunsola.

In Nigeria, government pursuit of a statutory press council dates as far back as 1978, according to CPJ research, and has continued under the country's various military and civilian rulers. Gen. Ibrahim Babaginda, who is currently running as a civilian candidate in presidential elections scheduled for next year, issued the Nigerian Press Council Decree 85 of 1992 among other repressive edicts such as the Offensive Publications (Proscription) Decree and the Newspaper Registration Board Decree No. 43 of 1993.

Gbenga Adefaye, president of the Guild of Editors, said Babangida's regime sought to legislate every possible aspect of media activities. "There was a law to regulate advertising practice, a law to regulate broadcasting, filmmaking, and they also wanted to regulate the practice [of journalism]." In 1997, under the regime of Gen. Sani Abacha, then-minister of information Walter Ofonagoro threatened to set up a "press court" to charge journalists who "report untruths." In 1999, the administration of another military ruler, Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar, repackaged the registration Decree No. 43 as the Nigerian Press Council (Amendment) Decree No. 60, which threatened fines and jail time for non-compliant journalists. It was then that a coalition of journalists fought back. "As a result members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, and NPAN refused to nominate members," according to Ogunsula.

Nigeria's transition to democracy and the enactment of a new constitution in 1999 gave a coalition of journalists the opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the repressive decrees. "When the military was in power, the government had legislation in place not to entertain press freedom cases. We now have the freedom to go to court," said veteran journalist Ray Ekpu, one of the petitioners. The democratic transition did not, however, stop legislative efforts by politicians to regulate the press. "They wanted government to open a register and deregister journalists, to legislate salaries, which is crazy in a free market economy, to determine qualifications to enter profession," said Adefaye, referring to the Nigerian Press and Practice of Journalism Council Bill, which was withdrawn under intense criticism in 2009. The government has appealed the constitutional review ruling, reported veteran journalist Lanre Idowu, but Adefaye told CPJ that "even if they appeal, it's a major constitutional victory for us."

In South Africa, ANC officials, including President Jacob Zuma, have proposed a media tribunal "accountable to parliament"--a chamber dominated by Zuma's party--and criticized South Africa's self-regulatory Press Council and ombudsman. ANC officials went as far as making claims that the proposed media tribunal would benefit South Africans unable to afford civil libel lawyers. "Here, [the poor] would have an institution to go to," Zuma declared before parliament this month. In fact, the poor have not been the target of the kind of press scrutiny that is devoted to the ANC and the government. In his remarks, Zuma, whose personal scandals have filled newspaper columns, appeared to allude to this. "We are concerned because a lot of pain has been caused by how the media has been reporting on certain individuals in the country." Similarly, press scrutiny has led governments in Botswana and Zambia in efforts to force the press under statutory regulation. In Uganda, journalists like Peter Mwesige are challenging government legislation seeking to empower a statutory media council, already dominated by the government, to sanction vague offenses like the "publication of "information injurious to national security" or the economy.

Most journalists and press freedom advocates believe--and the record of government-led regulation of the media in Africa has proven--that allowing politicians to regulate the press inevitably leads to political censorship of the news media. The statutory press council in Nigeria had "rather created an illicit ombudsman in the [Nigerian statutory press] council, which will certainly be used to define and tailor the editorial directions and policies of the media," wrote Justice Liman in his decision. As for one of the victorious petitioners, Adefaye, the NPAN and the Nigerian Guild of Editors have replicated the South African model of an ombudsman and a self-regulatory press council. "For us, if there is any form of regulation, it should be done by [media] stakeholders. No government really wants the press to be completely free," he said.

ANC NGC sends a softer, cuddlier media appeals tribunal to Parliament

The Daily Maverick, September 24, 2010

http://www.thedailymaverick.co.za

One feature of the ANC's bottom-up decision making is that bodies like its NGC have all the say, in theory. So now that the NGC has had its say on the media appeals tribunal, everything said by ANC leaders up to this point becomes null and void, and the NGC's view reigns supreme for at least a couple of years. And what the NGC had to say about government regulation of media is almost entirely unlike everything ANC leaders have said to date.

By Phillip de Wet and Stephen Grootes

There were some remarkable scenes in the media ghetto on the outskirts of the ANC's national general council meeting in Durban on Thursday night and early Friday morning, as journalists were finally briefed on the outcome of discussions in the media committee.

Despite the late hour, old hand Pallo Jordan cheerfully took on journalists in defending the ANC's track record on media freedom, declaring the local media landscape to have fundamental problems and dismissing concerns about media restrictions as hysterical.

That is a scene that has played itself out many times in recent months, at various debates and discussions and seminars around the country. This time, though, it was different. With Jordan in charge the whole thing had the atmosphere of debating club rather than mortal combat. Perhaps that was because Jordan had a trick up his sleeve. He presented a resolution which included the media appeals tribunal, but did not make it central - and contains some provisions that makes the body seem almost benign.

The resolution, as presented to journalists verbally, is a thing of diplomatic beauty for all its clumsy wording, and is worth considering in full.

Here is the text:

The existing self-regulatory system (Press Ombudsman and Press Council) is ineffective and needs to be strengthened to balance the rights of the media and those of other citizens, guided by the values enshrined in our bill of rights, for example human dignity, equality and freedom.

The commission affirmed the call for Parliament to conduct a public enquiry on:

balancing the rights enshrined in the Constitution, like rights to dignity, freedom of expression and media, guided by the values enshrined in our bill of rights, human dignity, equality and freedom.

enquiry on transformation of the print media in respect of a [black economic empowerment] media charter, ownership and control, advertising and marketing and the desirability of the establishment of a media accountability mechanism, for example the media appeals tribunal.

the media accountability mechanism [should be] in the public interest including the investigations into the best international practices, without compromising the values enshrined in our Constitution

on what regulatory mechanisms can be put in place to ensure the effective balancing of rights, this may include self-regulation, co-regulation and independent regulation. Any media accountability mechanism, should be independent of commercial and party political interests, should act without fear, favour and prejudice, should be empowered to impose appropriate sanctions and must not be pre-publication censorship.

In preparation for this enquiry, the ANC will itself submit to Parliament its own submissions.

Let's start at the beginning. The ANC will give Parliament what amounts to an instruction (given its majority) to consider the desirability of a media appeals tribunal. Which the ANC has made abundantly clear it considers desirable, so consider the establishment a done deal, never mind Jordan's technically correct protestations that the legislature can do whatever the hell it pleases, including throwing the whole concept out.

However, in the very same breath the NGC has added a number of restrictions on the nature of such a body and how it should operate. Keep in mind that this is a Parliament that once considered removing the word "independent" from the name of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), the broadcasting the telecoms regulator. Icasa, which though often incompetent and bungling, has stayed clear of controversy when it comes to actual content, is clearly the model the NGC had in mind.

Independence isn't easily defined, of course. Baleka Mbete always claims Parliament is independent, and thus it should appoint a tribunal as the representatives of the people it will serve. That is hogwash, and an ANC-aligned tribunal chosen by an ANC-dominated Parliament with a mandate to further the causes of the party is one of the great fears of media institutions. During the media scrum after his official appearance, Jordan said Parliament should not appoint the tribunal, because a way must be found to make it more independent. That would represent a major shift in ANC thinking, and could be the one change that makes newspapers sign up to the project.

Also important is the continual invocation of the Constitution. Questioned about the outpouring of foreign concern about the ANC's apparent determination to regulate the media, Jordan said those statements were nuanced. "As far as I've been able to make out, not one has said 'this is wrong'. They have said South Africa has a good Constitution, and whatever institution you create should be consistent with the values of that Constitution."

Take a step back from the detail, and the whole thing actually amounts to a retreat from the fiery days of ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu's let's-arrest-journalists approach. This resolution is very similar to what was agreed at Polokwane, a political epoch ago. That does not, by any stretch of the imagination, represent progress on the part of any dark forces within the ANC that want the media gagged.

Suddenly, in what we will henceforth refer to as the post-Pallo era of the media tribunal, the idea looks like a typical ANC storm, the type we've seen around several issues before. Lots of sound and fury, with the media (including us) reporting on those who shouted the loudest and seemed to represent the greatest threat. When it came down to it, though, pragmatism won the day. Because even if such a body is considered to be "desirable" there's still the hurdle of "feasible" to get through.

Parliament is a strange place sometimes. But its recent track record is such that it's only when there is real political will driving it that something can happen fast. The death of the Scorpions is the obvious example. We don't see that strong, united political will here. Not yet. That could change, but until it does, we see the issue of the media tribunal taking a long, leisurely tour through the land of position papers, public hearings and redrafting. What comes out the other end, far into the future, is highly unlikely to please the Mthembu-style firebrands.

There are plenty of other things in the NGC discussions and resolutions for the media industry to be worried about - on a corporate level. The ANC intends to let slip the competition hounds on the entire newspaper printing industry, on suspicion that there is anti-competitive behaviour afoot. The party still wants its very own newspaper, some day, which will surely draw a lot of lucrative government advertising away from other papers. Black economic empowerment targets in the newspaper business will probably be among the highest around, if ANC negotiators get their way.

Whatever the ANC believes, though, none of those issues will have a tangible impact on the editorial side. They do not threaten the watchdog role of the media, at least not directly. They are nothing more than the everyday hazards of doing business in South Africa.

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