Mistakes ‘must hit pockets’

2012-02-02 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — If you make a mistake it must affect your pocket.

This is one of the proposals made to the Press Freedom Commission (PFC) by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela about how the country’s print media should be regulated.

During the PFC’s public session in Johannesburg yesterday Madonsela also emphasised that the media should remain self-regulating, but that the regulations should have “more bite”.

“The fact that we must have a free and independent, but accountable and responsible media is non-negotiable.”

But she believes stronger action should be taken against offending media.

She proposed that a financial contribution be made to the party affected by inaccurate reporting, but that a prominent correction and apology should also be published.

“If the inaccurate report appeared in large letters on the front page of the newspaper and was advertised on lamp posts the apology should be similarly handled.”

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Pansy Tlakula, who is also a human rights advocate in Africa, told the commission that the media must fight tooth and nail for independence.

“Media houses throughout Africa have closed down because they were regulated by the state and the state did not like what they were writing.”

The Independent Democrats’ chief whip Lance Greyling also spoke in favour of media self-regulation.

“The media must not gain the respect of Parliament or politicians, but the respect of the public. To maintain that respect a healthy tension must exist between the media and government.”

Other speakers said an independent body to which the media must be accountable is the only solution.

Sibusiso Buthelezi, an “ordinary citizen”, said he has submitted two complaints to the press ombudsman and that nothing has come of them.

He proposed that the SA Press Council publish the names of all accredited journalists on its website and then remove the names of those who transgress.

In his submission Themba Sepotokele, a self-confessed “failed journalist” and now a government spokesperson, highlighted mistakes made by the media and partisan reporting on political parties.

But he said political parties themselves should ensure that they receive proper media coverage.

“Let’s be honest: some of the statements issued by government are more suited to nursery school kids than to journalists.”

The Press Freedom Commission, led by former chief justice Pius Langa, will publish its findings arising from the public hearings in March.

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