News24

Sanef against registering journalists

2011-02-16 14:44

Cape Town - The South African National Editors' Forum on Wednesday objected to a call from MPs to have their profession legally defined in order for members to be exempted from the provisions of the protection of personal information bill on the grounds that this would require registration of the media.

Sanef stalwart Raymond Louw argued that registering journalists opened members of the profession to the threat of being deregistered, possibly for political reasons by a censorious government.

"Placing journalists on a register immediately poses the danger that as easily as they can be placed on a register they can be removed from such a register and thus prevented from practising as journalists which would constitute censorship and would certainly contravene the Constitution."

'No stopping' bill going ahead

Sanef was briefing members of Parliament's portfolio committee on justice drafting the bill, which it opposes.

The media forum argues that the legislation is unnecessary as the common law already affords protection to privacy rights, and would infringe on media freedom.

ANC MP John Jeffrey countered that there was no stopping the bill and that its primary aim was not to curtail the media, who had to decide whether or not it wished to be exempted.

Democratic Alliance MP Dene Smuts suggested that Sanef was shooting itself in the foot by refusing an exemption.

"I can't help you if you come here and argue against your interests," Smuts said, before suggesting that the media settle for a definition drafted by media lawyer Dario Milo.

Defining journalism

The meeting devolved into a philosophical debate about the merits of defining the profession, with Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini arguing that defining the media would pose the problem of deciding what constituted acceptable media.

Smuts's proposals for a definition erred by deciding that publications like The Guardian and the New York Times qualified while Wikileaks boss Julian Assange did not, because he failed the respectability test.

"I'm violently opposed to defining journalism. The perniciousness of beginning to define journalism is drawing a definition between good journalism and bad journalism."

Steve Swart from the African Christian Democratic Party said Sanef was being hypocritical because it had called for special status for the media in terms of a number of laws, including the contentious protection of information bill, where it wanted a public interest defence to protect journalists.

Sanef chairperson Mondli Makhanya said the forum was misunderstood in that it did not object to an exemption per se, but believed this could be done by updating the code of the Press Council to cover conduct that would breach the law.

"We will then apply for an exemption on the basis that it will be dealt with by the Press Council," he said.

Comments
  • Paul - 2011-02-16 15:07

    Ala Zimbabwe. Mind you though, news 24 supports censorship, they will be delighted with the prospect of having the ANC remove half of their newspaper, leaving behind only the Zuma friendly stories.

  • Personal_Pri - 2011-02-16 17:29

    Lets get the facts correct. There has never been a suggestion that journalists are to be registered. No where in the Bill is the idea stated. It is an idea that SANEF have, and only them. The South African National Editors' Forum showed a dismal understanding of the Protection of Personal Information Bill and clearly did not understand the difference between personal PRIVACY and the the protection of personal information. The SANEF written submission specifically stated that "SANEF is totally opposed to the Bill". But once their error was pointed out to them, they changed their tune. SANEF were told to go away and read the Bill properly and if they had some concrete suggestions, these could be submitted in the future. SANEF were also told in no uncertain terms that they are not exempt from all their obligations under the Protection of Personal Information, just certain sections that provide for the freedom of the press. SANEF's members, like everyone else who processes personal information will have to be certain their possession is lawful and that the information is secure.

  • Personal_Pri - 2011-02-16 18:11

    For anyone interested, the POPI Bill contains the following exemption for journalists: "This Act does not apply to the processing of personal information for exclusively journalistic purposes by responsible parties who are subject to, by virtue of office, employment or profession, a code of ethics that provides adequate safeguards for the protection of personal information to the extent that such code provides sufficient guidelines- (i) for such responsible parties in the processing of personal information which is substantially similar to the conditions for the lawful processing of such information (ii) balance the right to privacy against the right to freedom of expression in the particular context of information processing for journalistic purposes.

  • Sizwe - 2011-02-16 18:29

    When I go to see a Doctor I know -within bounds of reason- they are qualified and professional, due to them being accredited by a body of specialists and peers (HPCSA), the same goes for my lawyer, my account etc. Journalists claim they are professional yet refuse to be accredited as such!? The HPCSA, The General Council of the Bar and it's provincial affiliates, South African Institute of Charted Accountants, Institute of Bankers etc, are all administered by professionals in that industry hence we can trust their accreditation. The arguement of censorship does not hold water as the body will receive the requisite independence as enjoyed by the one's mentioned above. Thus one can conclude that they are being hypocritical and vexatious in their stance. We cannot entrust the country's secrets to a bunch of people who are not accredited surely? Freedom of the media does not justify a circus by faceless people whose conduct has not been scrutinised at all. A "legally registered" professional body will ensure that, hence we shoud demand it, lest we as South Africans, give the media a blank cheque to do as they please without the least bit of regulation! All of us are in an industry that is regulated to some degree or other, why should they be different especially with the rights they are demanding?

      Sizwe - 2011-02-16 18:39

      PS WE HAVE ELECTED A GOVERNMENT AND FAILED TO HOLD IT TO ACCOUNT, HAVE WE AS SOUTH AFRICANS NOT LEARNT OUR LESSON YET? TWO WRONGS DO NOT A RIGHT MAKE. LET US MAKE SURE THAT THOSE WHO WE EMPOWER ARE ALSO COMPETENT, TRUSTWORTHY AND WILL BE BOUND TO SOME JUDICIALLY DEFINED SANCTION AND NOT COMMON LAW! SA COMMON LAW IS INHERITED FROM A BY GONE ERA (Holland and Friesland circa 1700!) WHICH IS RADICALLY DIFFERENT FROM THE CHALLENGES OF THE MODERN DAY DEMOCRATIC AND CONSTITUTIONAL STATE.

  • Piet S. Knot - 2011-02-17 09:51

    Whoever wrote this article should be sent for a hearing/IQ test. I was in parliament and listened to the SANEF submission and it was so poorly done and contained so much shite that I felt it was disrepectful to parliament. If I was the chairman I would have had them incarcerated for their own good - idiots of this magnitude should not be allowed out of the bedroom never mind into parliament

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