Press Code 'insufficient for children'

2012-03-13 14:47
Johannesburg - The Press Code is not sufficient to protect children from being exposed to the publication of content on sexual conduct, the Justice Alliance of SA said on Tuesday.

"By the time there is a complaint at the ombudsman, the danger has already occurred in the sense that the publication has already taken place," Jasa advocate Darryl Cooke said.

He was arguing in the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg in a case which questioned the constitutional validity of sections of the Film and Publications Act.

The Press Code was not an effective bulwark because in the period that the case was waiting to come to court, the Press Code had been amended on sexual conduct, said Cooke.


Cooke said the Press Council had 11 members and it only took the support of two-thirds of those people to amend the code.

In an amendment on October 15, 2011, the council changed a section that dealt with the visual presentation of sexual conduct. It originally stated that a visual presentation of sexual conduct may not be published unless a legitimate public interest dictated otherwise.

Now the wording has been changed to replace "may" with "should", which Jasa considers to be advice or a recommendation. The word "legitimate" was removed, leaving only "public interest".

"The Press Code... is a bulwark that can be circumvented fairly quickly," Jasa submitted.

Counsel for Print Media and the SA National Editors' Forum supported a declaration of invalidity by the South Gauteng High Court, that amendments to sections 16(1), (2) and 24(2)(a) of the Film and Publications Act are inconsistent with the Constitution.

Their complaints are that the amendments exclude only newspapers from the need to submit any content to the Film and Publications Board before publication.

It would mean that numerous mainstream publications would have to submit before publication even matters that are in the public interest.

Judgment was reserved.

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