26 January 2012
MEDIA STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Weather Service will not act as censor of weather forecasting
The SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) welcomes assurances by Water and Environmental Affairs Portfolio Committee chairman Johnny de Lange that amendments to the SA Weather Services Amendment Bill will not result in the media being censored by the Weather Service.
Sanef, which made a submission before the portfolio committee this week, had argued that a proposed clause in the amending legislation which required anyone issuing a severe weather or air pollution-related warning to obtain the written permission of the Weather Service beforehand was unacceptable and should be scrapped.
But before Sanef presented its arguments to the committee at a hearing, De Lange said that the provision would be removed from the draft legislation.
He added that other concerns of the media over other clauses which could raise problems for the media would also be addressed and that the Bill would be limited to preventing people issuing false weather forecasts or trying to hoax the public with false weather information.
Sanef complained that the Bill would inhibit the media from publishing stories about weather and air pollution obtained from other reputable sources such as international, academic and scientific sources as well as public protests about pollution by factories, mines, steel plants and other industrial enterprises.
Sanef stated that the wording was vague, especially a clause which related to the publication of information which detrimentally affected the Weather Service, pointing out that this could apply to stories about a labour dispute or the conduct of whistle blowers at the Service.
Sanef also recorded its disappointment that the draft legislation had not been discussed with it or any other media organisation before being presented to parliament despite a requirement that the people appointed to the board of the Weather Service took the interests of certain stakeholders into account, one of them being the media.
De Lange also gave assurances to private weather forecasters who provide commercial or free weather services and had complained that their activities would be affected that they would not require Weather Service permission or that their services would be interfered with.
De Lange said he would urge that further discussions on the amendments to the legislation should include stakeholders.
Issued by the SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)
SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)
Tel: +27 (0) 11 484 3630 / +27 (0) 11 484 3617
Fax: +27 (0) 11 484 3593
Mobile: +27 (0) 84 784 2006