Sunday, August 08, 2010
BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA Aug 08 2010 08:07
There would be no debate over establishing a Media Appeals Tribunal, said ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema on Saturday. "We have already decided. We want Parliament to appoint a tribunal, make it law."
Malema said the media must be regulated because "they think they are untouchable". The youth league leader was addressing about 500 delegates at the Free State ANCYL conference in Bloemfontein. Malema said the Press Ombudsman could not be a player and a referee at the same time.
"These people are dangerous. They write gossip and present it as facts."
Malema said the media had put him and his family's lives in danger after the death of AWB leader Eugene Terre'blanche by suggesting that "Malema's songs had contributed" to the murder incident.
He said the media had also nearly destroyed the political career of ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa "on a rumour".
Referring to the Free State youth league leadership elections at the conference, Malema urged members to "respect" the decision of the conference.
He said anybody who disrupted any youth league conferences would be expelled from the party.
ANCYL 'not run by editors'
"You win your battles at conference, not in the newspapers. The ANCYL is not run by editors."
Meanwhile, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) on Friday expressed concern about the draft Protection of Information Bill and the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal, saying they were "constitutionally suspect".
The two measures threatened to undermine press freedom, which was a fundamental pillar of democracy, LSSA co-chairs Max Boqwana and Peter Horn said in a joint statement.
The draft Bill and tribunal each had the potential to erode transparency, accountability by public officials, and the public's right of access to information and media freedom, they said.
On the proposed tribunal, Boqwana and Horn said the LSSA accepted the media had a duty to report fairly, objectively and responsibly.
This was so in view of the powerful position the media occupied in society.
However, the LSSA was greatly concerned about the suggestion that the media required external regulation.
"What appears to be envisaged is a government-appointed 'independent' tribunal which would serve as a forum for appealing decisions made by the press ombudsman, and which would be accountable to Parliament."
The fact that the tribunal would be accountable to Parliament was cold comfort.
Ultimately what this would amount to was government oversight over the media, which could not be countenanced in a democratic state.
It appeared the purpose of the tribunal was essentially to remove self-regulation, which had been criticised on the basis that the appointment of a former journalist as the press ombudsman automatically led to bias in favour of the media.
This criticism was not borne out by the jurisprudence that had emanated from the ombudsman.
The ombudsman had issued a number of highly critical findings against the media and ordered the publication of several prominent apologies, including front-page apologies.
The right of individuals to approach the court in cases of defamation was entrenched and the discussion should actually be how best to utilise this, including accessing lawyers for such acts. - Sapa