The SA National Editors Forum has expressed concern at government suggestions it might cut advertising in the Sunday Times over the paper's use of confidential medical records, according to a statement released after a Sanef council meeting in Grahamstown.
The Sanef statement reads:
The Sanef Council concluded its
meeting at the Highway Africa conference at Rhodes University in Grahamstown
with a robust debate on the issue of privacy and the public interest.
Following the debate the Council agreed to the
proposed seminar between editors and the Government on this matter. The seminar
was initially proposed at a meeting between Sanef and the Government last week
in Cape Town.
The Council supported the
Management Committee's decision to meet with the SABC to discuss the decision by
the Corporation's CEO, Advocate Dali Mpofu, to cut ties with Sanef.
The Council expressed its deep
concern at the suggestion by the Minister in the Presidency, Dr. Essop Pahad,
that the Government should consider withdrawing its advertising from The Sunday
Times. This appears to be in retaliation for the newspaper's publication of
publicly significant information about the Minister of Health, Dr. Manto
Sanef notes with increasing alarm
that certain provincial and local municipalities have also on occasion adopted,
or have threatened to adopt, this form of sanction of newspapers for publishing
material they find embarrassing to themselves. This practice would deny readers
of the targeted media institutions access to government information and
opportunities such as jobs and contracts. While the withdrawal of advertising
from a newspaper on commercial grounds, such as the loss of a market which the
advertiser sought to reach, is a normal risk carried by newspapers, it is
unacceptable for public bodies to use withdrawal of advertising as a punitive
measure to promote self-censorship.
Sanef further expresses its
concern at a proposal tabled for discussion at the African National Congress
(ANC) conference in December to set up a task team to investigate the conduct of
the media and to consider the establishment of a media tribunal, the role of
which is as yet unclear.
The proposal says only that a
tribunal might be needed "to address the prevailing self-regulatory dispensation
within the media (and) whatever remedial measures may be required to safeguard
and promote the rights of all South Africans."
Sanef recognizes the right of the
ANC to discuss and even criticize the conduct of the media and to find means of
having its policies and practices receiving greater publicity. However, Sanef is
seriously concerned that the work of the proposed task team could result in
restrictions on the media. Sanef hopes that the ANC will engage with media
stakeholders during the unfolding of this proposal.
Sanef promotes and popularizes its
self-regulatory Press Council with its Ombudsman and Appeal panel mechanisms and
the electronic media's Broadcasting Complaints Commission. These bodies protect
the rights of the public to complain and seek redress against the ethical and
professional lapses by the media, while at the same time preserving media
Issued by: The SA National Editors' Forum
For further comment
Jovial Rantao ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Sanef
Chairperson: 082 446 6008
Henry Jeffreys ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Sanef
Deputy Chairperson, 082 556 8883