The Press Council of South Africa, a media regulatory body aimed at ensuring adherence to high standards in newspaper journalism, has finally been established, writes Phakamisa Ndzamela

Speaking at the launch of the body in Johannesbug last Friday, Raymond Louw, chairperson of the council said it was a timely arrival because it was essential for a free press to regulate itself.

"Leaving regulation to government or other institutions would intrude on press freedom," Louw said.

"Industry-led self regulation was not confined to the media but among others, the legal and medical professions. No other institution in the world gets regulated from the outside unless it's under the control of outside influence," said Louw.

Louw added that it was important that the media was regulated by people who have an understanding and the knowledge of the operation of the press.

As chairperson of the council, Louw said his task would consist of among other things, making public statements on the role of the press and the way it conducts itself.

The new press council also been tasked with the role of administering the office of the press ombudsman and appeals panel.

Joe Thloloe, the newly appointed press ombudsman of South Africa, said that to guide the new body and the ombudsman, "the press council has a press code and a code of ethics that prescribes accuracy, fairness and all the basics that were needed for good journalism".

Thloloe said the office of the ombudsman was independent of the council but reported to the council. "The ombudsman will play an arbitrative role and adjudicating on complaints by people against newspapers".

The public will also have recourse in an appeals panel if they are not happy with the decisions of the ombudsman. The press appeal panel is chaired by a retiring Judge of the supreme court of appeal, Judge Ralph Zulman.

The press council will also consist of public representatives. However, the public representatives are barred from being office bearers of a political party, occupying seats in provincial and national legislative bodies or employed in the civil service.

Dr Lindsay Clowes a public representative in the press council said, she hoped the council "would help advance good journalism in South Africa".