DA will oppose media appeals tribunal
Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance will oppose the creation of a media appeals tribunal should it be brought to Parliament for debate, the party said on Tuesday.
"The ANC has clearly placed the establishment of a media appeals tribunal firmly back on the agenda," spokesperson Mmusi Maimane said in Johannesburg.
"Except, this time it has been brought back under the guise that it would be independent from political interference," he said in a statement.
Maimane was making a representation to the Press Freedom Commission public hearings.
Earlier in the day, leading ANC figures Jessie Duarte and Jackson Mthembu suggested an "independent" tribunal should be established, and said the existing media self-regulatory system was ineffective.
Maimane said no institution set up by the state, which was reliant on the state for funding, and consisted of deployed cadres accountable to politicians, could be independent.
"We have seen how cadre deployment has undermined the independence of Chapter Nine institutions in the past," he said.
The resurgence of the media tribunal idea had come despite assurances by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe last year that the media would be given sufficient time to reform and that the media’s self-regulation should continue, Maimane said.
"We strongly believe that self-regulation is the only manner in which the freedom of the press, as enshrined in the Constitution, can exist," Maimane said.
Independent regulation would impose standards external to the industry on journalists and compromise their freedom.
In its own submission to the commission, the DA proposed that the SA Press Council play a proactive role in monitoring journalistic standards.
It should also act as a catalyst in encouraging media organisations to improve their own internal standards.
Parliament also had to act to strengthen press freedom by passing legislation which would make the rulings of the press ombudsman legally binding, the DA said.
Where there was prima facie evidence of abuse of power by journalists, the ombudsman should be empowered to launch a full investigation, to call witnesses, to subpoena documents, and make rulings against journalists or the publications for which they worked.
Apologies and retractions ordered by the ombudsman should be printed prominently on the front page, and the text of such apology should be agreed mutually by the complainant and the ombudsman.
The commission should also reconsider the matter of giving the ombudsman the power to levy fines as a form of sanction, Maimane said.