South African Official Softens Stance on Media Regulation

18 October 2010

Improved self-regulation by the South African press might mitigate the need for state media controls, a key government official said Oct. 16.

It was not clear whether the apparent softening of position on the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal would extend to the controversial Protection of Information Bill, but there were hints of potential discussions on the bill.

The shift in tone on media regulation came after African National Congress Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe met with the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) in Magaliesburg.

Afterward, he said:  “If the process of reviewing the self-regulatory mechanisms produces mechanisms that can address the concerns about its shortcomings, we see no difficulty in accepting that right product, whatever it is. So, we are in a sense allowing the space for the media to attend to that challenge.”

The South African Press Council is currently undertaking a review of its constitution to help strengthen the body, which has been criticized by the ruling ANC as being “toothless,” according to an account by Politics Web.

The site further quoted Motlanthe as saying:

“…A lot depends on how the concerns would be addressed, for instance if there is an inaccurate article in a newspaper, what is the turnaround time of printing a correction?

“Those are some of the key questions that the media itself would have to address and if those are addressed, it will remove the basis for the concerns.”

On the POIB, Politics Web reported:

On the Information Bill, Sanef chairman, Mondli Makhanya said it was agreed that the forum would “engage” with the appropriate clusters in government to “iron out” the concerns.

The former Sunday Times editor said the meeting was significant as it “lessened the level of distrust” between government and Sanef.

Times Live reported that Makhanya, the editor-in-chief of Avusa, said the government had promised to keep talking about aspects of its Protection of Information Bill.

“We go away from here believing that we will be able to engage at a much more constructive level,” he said.

State Security Minister Sivabonga Cwele  is scheduled to appear before Oct. 22at a meeting of the ad hoc committee on the Protection of Information Bill.

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