Watchdog: Moves on media a step back

2010-09-23 21:16

Johannesburg - Proposed rules for the media would bring South Africa a "dramatic step backwards", press rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders said Thursday.

The ruling African National Congress is meeting in Durban this week to consider creating a media tribunal that could hear complaints against the press and impose legal penalties on journalists.

In parliament the party has introduced sweeping proposals for classifying information.

"We are amazed that the ANC keeps on coming up with this kind of measure which, if implemented, would represent a dramatic step backwards," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

"We hope that President Jacob Zuma and all the government will understand the reservations expressed by the media and press freedom groups in recent weeks and will abandon these proposals", it said.

"Not only the independence of South Africa’s journalists but also the country's image and its role as the engine for all of Africa are at stake."

South African journalists say the proposals are an attempt to stifle a press corps that has embarrassed the ANC by exposing official corruption, uncovering scandals and reporting on internal party disputes.