Press code: No influence from ANC
Cape Town - The press ombudsman's office has sought to allay perceptions that the ANC influenced amendments to the press code governing print media.
Ombudsman Joe Thloloe and his deputy Johan Retief moved to clarify the matter in a joint statement on Tuesday.
This followed media reports that Retief conceded - at a press conference on Monday to introduce the Press Council's new code - that the changes were "influenced" by the ANC's calls for a media appeals tribunal (MAT).
The ombudsman's office accepted that this statement might be as a result of a misunderstanding, they said.
However, they needed to clarify that it was incorrect, misleading, and damaging to the credibility of the new code, to the Press Council's whole review process, and indeed to the system of self-regulation.
"The Press Council, who is the custodian of the press code, lives and dies by its independence from forces outside the press industry."
From the start of the review in August 2010, the council had made it clear that it was going to be led, as a matter of principle, by, among others, the question of what was good for journalism.
It had specifically and repeatedly said it was not going to do anything to appease anybody, including the ANC.
At Monday's conference, a journalist asked if the council believed that the new code would make the ANC happy.
In reply, both Retief and Thloloe specifically repeated this principle.
Earlier in the conference, Retief explained that the council's review was a normal process that it undertook every five years.
He said the ANC's call for an MAT served to speed up this review, saying: "The ANC's MAT influenced us to do our work properly and with care".
He was on record as saying many times that the calls for an MAT had "kick-started the Press Council into action".
"This is a far cry from being 'influenced' by the ANC 'to change' the code. The office of the press ombudsman states categorically that not a single change to the code was influenced by the ANC," they said.