'Wits comments raise false alarms'

2010-10-01 18:33

Johannesburg – Comments over the ANC-proposed media appeals tribunal (MAT) by the University of the Witwaterstrand senate raised "false alarms", the ANC Youth League said on Friday.

The Wits senate said the MAT under consideration by the ANC may enable direct state suppression of the freedom of expression.

The statement sparked a response from the ANCYL, which described the comments as not only "disgusting", but also as "sensationally raises false alarms about the ANC's call for independent regulation and monitoring of the media".

The ANC's youth wing said it also noted that the statement came from a predominantly white institution's senate.

"The recently held national general council of the ANC re-emphasised the vitality of freedom of expression, yet resolved on the need for independent media regulation, moving away from the current system of self-regulation by a toothless, useless and inefficient Press Ombudsman," spokesperson Floyd Shivambu said in a statement.

The Wits senate, in a statement posted on its website on September 21, said: "Accountable to parliament, which is constituted overwhelmingly by the ruling party, the tribunal might undermine the media's necessary role in informing society."

Agnostic attitude

"The ruling party's antagonistic attitude to the print media has been illustrated by the recent public eviction from a media conference and very disturbingly by the arrest and detention of a journalist at the order of a politician," the statement read.

The senate further said: "Even in the absence of such provocation the proposed Tribunal would represent an unacceptable intrusion into media freedom."

Shivambu said the senate was "ignoring the ANC resolutions" and "showing its true right wing colours" by "drum(ming) up sensationalist politics" that the ANC was opposed to media freedom.

"The ANC fought for media freedom, will never suppress it under whatever circumstances, and will never be silent when media violates the right to dignity of South African citizens," Shivambu said.

The league said it advised Wits to stop entering into politics and rather focus on rescuing its crumbling image and prestige as an institution of higher learning.

"The racism and suppression of student activism at Wits University does not qualify Wits University, which is thriving in the shadow of its former self, to raise anything sensible, because it continues to harbour racists and intolerant managers with no vision for transformation.

"Wits University Senate is advised to properly read the ANC’s resolutions on media regulation and immediately stop parroting sensational opposition party politics," Shivambu said.