Floor-crossing must go and the print media must be made accountable to
Parliament, the ANC conference in Polokwane decided this week, writes Brendan Boyle in the Sunday Times.

The decision to abolish the provision that allows elected representatives to retain their seats when changing parties was unconditional and went further than the report from the party’s mid-year policy conference had suggested.

The conference also went further than the policy conference recommendation for a crackdown on media freedom, calling for parliamentary control of the print media through a proposed statutory Media Appeals Tribunal that would end the tradition of self- regulation by the press.

Former Rand Daily Mail editor Ray Louw, chairman of the Media Freedom committee of the SA National Editors’ Forum, called the proposal “extraordinarily worrying” and said the ANC was moving towards thought control.

The conference adopted a three-line resolution supporting the government’s policies on Zimbabwe, but adopted separate 27-line resolutions calling for international action on human rights in the Western Sahara and Palestine.

The Polokwane conference racked up the pressure on the media with sweeping proposals to curtail the independence of the press in a section of its conference report called “Communications and the Battle of Ideas”.

The resolution dismisses the existing system of self-regulation through an independent media ombudsman as “not adequate to sufficiently protect the rights of the individual citizens, communities and society as a whole”.

The resolution accuses the South African print media of supporting a global offensive against the ANC and against progressive ideas and values.

It calls for the establishment of a statutory Media Appeals Tribunal that would be accountable to Parliament and which would adjudicate the balance between media freedom and individual rights to privacy and dignity.

Click here to read the full report, posted on the Sunday Times website.