Proposal to license journalists ‘at odds with freedom of speech’

2014-07-04 16:39

Comments on the need to license journalists "infringe on freedom of speech”, FF Plus communications spokesperson Anton Alberts said today.

“It is an overreaction on the side of government because the media in South Africa play a big role as a watchdog for the public and to call authority structures to order.”

Acting SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng yesterday proposed that journalists have a licence to practice like those in the medical and law professions.

Alberts said a press ombudsman was established as part of self-regulation to prevent unfair and unreasonable journalism.

The ombudsman can be used instead of regulating the media externally.

“There are various examples in just the past couple of weeks alone about the effectiveness of the press ombudsman,” he said.

Earlier today, the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) said Motsoeneng’s statement revealed his ignorance about journalistic practice in a democracy.

“It is unfortunate that the remarks come from a high-ranking official of the public broadcaster, one of the biggest media houses in the country. The proposal is at odds with freedom of speech which is enshrined in the Constitution,” said Sanef.

In February, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released a report, When governance and ethics fail, which found Motsoeneng’s SABC appointment was irregular. Among others, his salary increased from R1.5 million to R2.4 million in one year.

She found he had misrepresented his qualifications – that he had passed matric – to the SABC and recommended that he be replaced.

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