Media braces itself for tribunal talks at ANC NGC

2015-10-08 13:07
Joe Thloloe. Picture: Lucky Maibi

Joe Thloloe. Picture: Lucky Maibi

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In among the topics on the agenda for this weekend’s National General Council of the ANC are state-owned enterprises, the relationship between the judiciary and politics, the metros, spatial plans, service delivery, land, police, the economy and electricity.

Read: 10 points that are up for discussion at the NGC

But the topic that has the country’s media on high alert is the suggestion that a media appeals tribunal is still on the table.

This topic was highlighted in a letter to delegates attending the council by Joe Thloloe, executive director of the Press Council of South Africa.

In it, he mentioned City Press’ report on Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who is said to have presided over the drafting of the council documents, saying that the idea of a media appeals tribunal was still very much alive and would be a focal point of discussion at this midterm policy review.

Zulu said that the current self-regulatory “was ineffective and needed to be strengthened”.

“Sometimes there is a feeling that we are just open to any kind of attack and we have no recourse at all. We want recourse, just like the media does,” she said.

“If it had not been for the fact that we have seen terribly unbalanced reporting around us, I’m sure we would not be in this space of looking at the tribunal. It’s because we are realising that even if there are good things happening, the media prefers not to talk about them.”

In his letter, Thloloe said, for Zulu, “balanced reporting is when the media also talk about the good things in society.

“Therefore an effective regulatory mechanism would be one that forces the media to talk about even the good things, in other words, one that prescribes what editors may or may not publish – forget the rights enshrined in Section 16 of South Africa’s Constitution.”

He added that he and the press council measured effectiveness differently:

“We judge the effectiveness of the mechanism by the number of people who use it, a number that has shot up – we even receive complaints about services not related to journalism. And the number of thank-you notes we get from satisfied complainants is gratifying.”

Last year, 2014, the press council received 461 complaints, down from the 537 of the previous year and the ombudsman ruled on 108 of these as against the 142 rulings the previous year.

The rest were settled amicably between the publication and the complainant after the intervention of our Public Advocate.

According to Thloloe, the Ombudsman has made 93 formal findings this year compared with the 78 rulings during the corresponding period in 2014. This can be ascribed to the dramatic increase in the number of complaints that the council had received so far in 2015.

Thloloe said the architecture of the press council proved that it was independent. It was led by Judge Phillip Levinsohn and consisted of six public representatives and six press representatives.

Another retired judge, Judge Ralph Zulman, formerly of the Supreme Court of Appeal, was one of the public representatives.

“The same pattern holds for the Panel of Adjudicators: it is headed by Judge Bernard Ngoepe, formerly Judge President of North and South Gauteng. It has eight public representatives and six press representatives,” Thloloe said.

“The Chair of Appeals and the chairperson of the Press Council were recommended by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.”

He added that any of the parties to a dispute may take the rulings of the ombudsman on appeal to Judge Ngoepe, and the rulings of the Press Council may be taken to the courts for review.

The public members of all the organs of the Press Council are appointed by a panel chaired by a retired judge. All publications that were members of the council invited South Africans to apply for the positions or to nominate suitable persons.

“Are we perfect? Hell, no. The Press Council is a work in progress, getting a facelift every so often. It is currently undergoing another major shake-up as we embrace the new world of online journalism, in response to changes in the environment.”

He said the council was more than willing to explain the system to Parliament and would accept “constructive suggestions”, but was still waiting for an invitation to do so.

» Follow City Press Online, on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep abreast of the latest decisions taken at this weekend’s NGC

Read more on:    joe thloloe  |  anc  |  anc ngc

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