The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) welcomes the recommendations of the Press Freedom Commission.
The PFC has proposed significant reforms to South Africa’s system of print media regulation aimed at strengthening its independence, enhancing its accessibility, and deepening its credibility.
– an increased role for representatives of the public in the processes and structures of the press council and a commensurately decreased role for press representatives. Effectively the system of “self-regulation” is replaced with independent co-regulation between the press and the public.
– The scrapping of the requirement that complainants waive their right of access to the courts.
– The broadening of the criteria for third party complaints by people not directly affected.
– The imposition of “space fines” – which would compel newspapers to set aside determined amounts of space for apologies and reprimands.
– The imposition of monetary fines for consistent and serious non-compliance with the rulings of the ombudsman.
– The strengthening of “right of reply” requirements.
– Increased protection for children.
– The physical separation of the office of the ombudsman from those of Print Media South Africa (PMSA) and Sanef.
These are substantial and far-reaching recommendations, that significantly address criticisms of the existing system, and tilt the balance of the institutional structure, as well as its standards and processes away from the press, and towards the broad interests of society.
We are pleased that the PFC has clearly rejected any involvement of political parties or state officials in the regulation of the press.
The changes go considerably further than those proposed by Sanef and most individual editors, but we believe they will result in important improvements to the regulatory system, and will ultimately strengthen journalism and consolidate the role of a free press in our constitutional democracy.
The recommendations are detailed and in some instances have complex ramifications. Sanef, PMSA and the Press Council will now review the report carefully and discuss how best to take the process forward.
Issued by the SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)
To download the PFC report go to: http://www.pressfreedomcomm.org/report-of-recommendations/