The controversial Film and Publications Bill was brought back into the
spotlight after the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and
the government agreed to allow a joint legal team to discuss all of
Sanef’s reservations on the draft bill, writes Thom McLachlan in Business Day.

At the meeting, in Cape Town Wed, the government also expressed concern regarding “the media’s handling of the right to privacy in general and the specific matter of respect for the principle of patient and doctor confidentiality,” according to a joint statement released late yesterday.

The meeting came at a time when print media are under attack for the way in which Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s personal medical records were publicised by the Sunday Times.

Last week the SABC announced it was ending its Sanef membership as a result of the umbrella body’s support for the Sunday Times. The SABC has put itself in the firing line for distancing itself from mainstream media.

While the government “reaffirmed its commitment to the constitutionally guaranteed right to a free press” after the meeting with Sanef, it said dialogue was needed “on the ethics that must guide the media in exercising this right”.

The parties agreed to hold a seminar to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) added its voice to the debate, saying that the SABC had demonstrated nothing but “arrogance” in pulling out of Sanef.

Misa spokesman Dumisani Nyalunga said in a statement that the SABC’s “drastic position” was a clear departure from the mainstream media and seemed to suggest it was “distancing itself from being a media house”.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.