The South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF) at its annual AGM in Johannesburg on 26-27 July 2008 restated its firm opposition to any attempt by the government to control the media, such as the African National Congress proposed statutory media tribunal.

It pointed out that the industry’s editorial self-regulatory system, the Press Council with its Press Ombudsman and Appeals Panel, dealt effectively with public complaints in the way similar institutions acted in 60 democracies throughout the world.

Sanef reiterated that such steps would restrict media freedom and contravene freedom of expression rights in the Constitution.

Members re-committed themselves to improving standards of journalism and enforcing the Press Council’s Press Code of Conduct. Members reiterated their unwavering support for the media’s Constitutional rights and the importance of upholding them in South Africa’s democracy.

Sanef members expressed their concerns about unsubstantiated complaints by senior ANC members about the Press Council as well as attempts to discredit the judiciary, which acted as a bulwark against the erosion of Constitutional rights.

Members also deplored the increasing attempts by government to exercise control over the media through legislation such as the Films and Publications Amendment Bill, the Protection of Information Bill and the National Key Points Act. Particular criticism was raised around a draft Bill designed to dissolve the board of the SA Broadcasting Corporation, which it was felt would result in politicians gaining unacceptable powers over the public service broadcaster. Sanef noted that the crisis at the SABC was a result of political interference in the selection of SABC board members.

Sanef expressed solidarity with and noted its deep concern at the continued detention without trial of journalists in several African countries, such as Eritrea, and also the continued harassment of journalists in many countries including Zimbabwe and Somalia. It called for the release of all journalists and urged the African Union to plead for the unconditional release of journalists in line with the spirit of transparency and accountability enshrined in Nepad.

At a prestigious function last night, veteran journalist Max du Preez was the winner of the 2008 Nat Nakasa Award for courageous journalism.

Sanef 2008 – 2009 Council was voted in as follows:

Jovial Rantao, Editor of Sunday Independent and Deputy Editor of the Star was re-elected SANEF chairperson, as were the deputy chairperson Henry Jeffreys, Editor of Die Burger, Mary Papayya, Bureau Chief of Sowetan in KwaZulu-Natal as Secretary-General and Juanita Williams, News Editor of Independent Online as Treasurer.

Others on the 2008 – 2009 Sanef council include:

Femida Mehtar: Executive Director
Amina Frense: Gauteng Regional Convenor
Guy Berger: Eastern Cape Regional Convenor
Robin Sewlal: KwaZulu Natal Regional Convenor
Willem Pretorius: Western Cape Regional Convenor
Judy Sandison: Diversity & Ethics Chair
Khathu Mamaila: Media Freedom Chair
Paddi Clay: Education & Training Chair
Clinton Nagoor
Elizabeth Barratt
Gavin Stewart
Gaye Davis
Hopewell Radebe
Jabulani Sikhakhane
Lizette Rabe
Mark van der Velden
Mathatha Tsedu
Raymond Louw
Tim du Plessis

Issued by: SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)
27 July 2008

For further comment please contact:

Jovial Rantao SANEF Chairperson: 082 446 6008
Henry Jeffreys SANEF Deputy Chairperson: 082 556 8883
Mary Papayya SANEF Secretary-General: 082 379 4957