The ANC’s proposal for a statutory media tribunal “will not fly”
because it is unconstitutional, the Freedom of Expression Institute
said, writes Nkululeko Ncana in The Times.

Jane Duncan, director of the institute, said: “The ANC has done itself a disservice by making the proposal for a statutory media tribunal … I don’t understand why they put it out there in the first place as a proposal from their policy conference.”

Journalists, politicians and a specialist in media law debated the validity of the ruling party’s proposal in Johannesburg yesterday. The deliberations were chaired by press ombudsman Joe Thloloe .

A document on the media, titled “Communications and the battle of ideas”, tabled at the ANC’s Polokwane conference last year, includes a proposal to investigate self- regulation in the media, and whether remedial measures are required to safeguard and promote the rights of all South Africans.

Media lawyer Dario Milo said the ANC deserved credit for raising the issue as it was of “profound importance in a democracy”.

But he warned that if a tribunal were put in a position to influence, directly or indirectly, what editors put in a newspaper then “you are constitutionally on shaky ground.

“The difficulty of any statutory regulation of the print media is that it is an infringement on the right to freedom of expression and an infringement on the right of editors to determine the content of their newspapers,” Milo said.

Former Rand Daily Mail editor Raymond Louw said the ANC didn’t have a reason for wanting a tribunal other than to protect its members from criticism.

Click here to read the full report, posted on The Times's website.