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South Africa: Media Matters
Oct 3, 2010 (101003)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"The current debate needs to interrogate the desire for secrecy
against the right to information in a society in which the lack of
socio-economic rights diminishes the ability to access political
and civil rights and vice-versa. It is a vicious cycle that the
further secrecy of the Protection of Information Bill, will only
deepen. The right to access to information that government itself
has put in place since 1994 needs to be upheld not undermined." -
Pregs Govender, Deputy Chair, South African Human Rights Commission
One may well debate how well South Africa's media have used the
freedom they have enjoyed since South Africa's democratic election
in 1994. But there can be no doubt that the Constitution set an
enviable model for other African (and non-African) states. Two
proposals this year, for a new Protection of Information Act and a
new Media Appeals Tribunal, have provoked outrage and concern both
from media and civil society that South Africa's political leaders
may retreat to emulating either their apartheid-era predecessors or
other African states with less exemplary records. While one can
rightly criticize the record of the media, government
justifications for the new measures have the distinct ring of
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several commentaries related to
these measures: (1) a statement from the Right to Know Campaign,
endorsed by over 9,000 individuals and 350 organizations, (2) a
commentary by Pregs Governder, deputy chair of the South African
Human Rights Commission, (3) a blog commentary by Mariama Keita of
the Committee to Protect Journalists comparing the South Africa
media proposal to the history of a similar institution in Nigeria,
and (4) a report from the Daily Maverick on compromises being
proposed by the ANC on the Media Tribunal.
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, sent out today by e-mail and
available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs10/med1010a.php) contains an
article reviewing the situation of media in Africa by veteran
journalist Kwame Karikari, a short commentary by journalist Thapelo
Ndlovu of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, and a press
release from the World Association of Newspapers and News
Publishers on the campaign for the Declaration of Table Mountain,
calling for the repeal of insult and defamation laws, which are
often used against the press.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note++++++++++++++++++++
Let the truth be told: Stop the Secrecy Bill!
A responsive and accountable democracy that can meet the basic
needs of our people is built upon transparency and the free flow of
information. The gains of South Africans' struggle for freedom are
threatened by the Protection of Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill)
currently before Parliament. We accept the need to replace
apartheid-era secrecy legislation. However, this Bill extends the
veil of secrecy in a manner reminiscent of that same apartheid
This Bill fundamentally undermines the struggle for whistleblower
protection and access to information. It is one of a number of
proposed measures which could have the combined effect of
fundamentally undermining the right to access information and the
freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution.
The Bill will create a society of secrets
- Any state agency, government department, even a parastatal and
your local municipality, can classify public information as secret.
Anything and everything can potentially be classified as secret at
official discretion if it is in the 'national interest'. Even
ordinary information relating to service delivery can become
- Commercial information can be made secret, making it very
difficult to hold business and government to account for
inefficiency and corruption.
- Anyone involved in the 'unauthorised' handling and disclosure of
classified information can be prosecuted; not just the state
official who leaks information as is the case in other democracies.
The disclosure even of some information which is not formally
classified can land citizens in jail. This will lead to
self-censorship and have a chilling effect on free speech.
- Whistleblowers and journalists could face more time in prison
than officials who deliberately conceal public information that
should be disclosed.
- A complete veil is drawn over the workings of the intelligence
services. It will prevent public scrutiny of our spies should they
abuse their power or breach human rights.
Who will guard the guardians?
- Officials do not need to provide reason for making information
- There is no independent oversight mechanism to prevent
information in the public interest from being made secret.
- The Minister of State Security, whose business is secrecy,
becomes the arbiter of what information across all of government
must remain secret or may be disclosed to the public.
- Even the leaking of secret information in the public interest is
- Unusually severe penalties of up to 25 years in prison will
silence whistleblowers, civil society and journalists doing their
- All these factors will limit public scrutiny of business and
government, whether through Parliament or journalists.
Accountability will be curtailed and service delivery to the people
will be undermined.
The Constitution demands accountable, open and responsive
government, realised among other things through freedom of
expression and access to information. Our elected representatives
are bound by these Constitutional values and any legislation they
pass must comply. We demand that the Protection of Information Bill
- the Secrecy Bill - must reflect the following:
- Limit secrecy to core state bodies in the security sector such as
the police, defence and intelligence agencies.
- Limit secrecy to strictly defined national security matters and
no more. Officials must give reasons for making information secret.
- Exclude commercial information from this Bill.
- Do not exempt the intelligence agencies from public scrutiny.
- Do not apply penalties for unauthorised disclosure to society at
large, only those responsible for keeping secrets.
- An independent body appointed by Parliament, and not the Minister
of Intelligence, should be the arbiter of decisions about what may
be made secret.
- Do not criminalise the legitimate disclosure of secrets in the
Sign on, circulate, educate, activate!
Who signs on:
- Civil Society Organisations (South African based)
- International friends (organisations) who share our concerns
Who are we?
The Right2Know (R2K) Campaign is concerned that the Protection of
Information Bill - also known as the Secrecy Bill - currently
before Parliament will fundamentally undermine hard-won
constitutional rights including access to information and freedom
R2K is an umbrella campaign representing a broad front of civil
society groups. We believe a responsive and accountable democracy
able to meet the basic needs of our people is built on transparency
and the free flow of information. The R2K campaign statement --
"Let the truth be told. Stop the Secrecy Bill!" - was drafted
following parliamentary hearings on the Bill in July 2010 and
demands that secrecy legislation must comply with constitutional
values. It is based upon detailed submissions made to Parliament by
civil society groups.
Support for the Right2Know Campaign has snowballed since our
initial launch in Cape Towns St. Georges Cathedral on August 31
which had the support of 200 organisations and 400 individuals. Two
weeks later almost 350 civil society organisations (300 of which
are based in South Africa) and 9,000 individuals now support the
The statement characterises the Protection of Information Bill as
fundamentally undermining the struggle for whistleblower protection
and access to information and as reminiscent of our apartheid
past. The statement calls for a redrafting of the Bill to comply
with the constitutional values of access to information and freedom
The 350 civil society organisations endorsing the statement include
Afesis-Corplan, the Alternative Information Development Centre,
Amnesty International, Black Sash, Ceasefire Campaign, CIVICUS,
Democracy Development Programme, Diakonia Council of Churches,
Earthlife Africa, Freedom of Expression Institute, Gay & Lesbian
Network, Idasa, Institute for Security Studies, Open Democracy
Advice Centre, M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism
(amaBhungane), National Welfare Forum, Palestine Support Committee,
Professional Journalists' Association, Section27, South African
History Archives, and the South African National Editors Forum as
well as various social movements including Equal Education, Social
Justice Coalition, Social Movements Indaba, Treatment Action
Campaign, and the Unemployed People's Movement.
Over 9000 individuals have also endorsed the Statement, including
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer, Prof Kader Asmal, Zakes
Mda, Dr Max Price, Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Zackie Achmat, Prof.
Njabulo Ndebele, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Mary Burton, Mazibuko K Jara,
Andrew Feinstein, Richard Spoor, Andre Brink, Terry Bell, Laurie
Nathan, Pierre de Vos, Max Du Preez, Paul Graham, Pippa Green, Prof
Hoosen Coovadia and Breyten Breytenbach.
A full list of endorsing organizations and individuals is available
on the website
South Africa: Secrecy As a Weapon of Oppression
Pregs Govender, 23 September 2010
* Pregs Govender is deputy chair of the South African Human Rights
Commission (SAHRC). She chaired Independent Panel Review of
Parliament (2007- 2008), was an ANC MP between 1994 - 2002 but
resigned after being the only MP to register opposition to the arms
deal in the Defence Budget Vote and holding public hearings on
HIV/Aids in 2001. She is the author of Love and Courage: A Story of
With concerns that a Protection of Information Bill (the Secrecy
Bill) before South Africa's Parliament will create a secret state,
Pregs Govender writes that debate needs to interrogate the desire
for secrecy against the right to information in a society in which
the lack of socio-economic rights diminishes the ability to access
political and civil rights and vice versa.
Secrecy has been and remains integral to the oppression of people
and to the exploitation of land and mineral resources across the
world. Colonisation, genocide, slavery and apartheid were all
dependent on secrecy. Those who abuse power depend on secrecy to
deny others their rights - within and through states, corporations,
religious, traditional, health, educational and media institutions
as well as homes and families.
Secrecy enabled apartheid to create a highly militarised,
authoritarian, unjust and unequal society. Those who exposed its
secrets were detained, banished or killed by its security and
intelligence forces. However, apartheid seldom completely silenced
their voices. From Ruth First to Steve Biko, their examples
inspired and laid the foundation for our right to freedom of
In the 1980s and early 1990s, poor women in urban and rural areas
shared information, united and stood against soldiers, vigilantes
and oppressive chiefs and husbands. Information was critical to
struggles for the right to life, freedom from violence, land,
decent housing, healthcare, education, sanitation, water and other
socio-economic rights. On the factory floor, bosses could not plead
poverty because workers had accessed information about their
massive profits and salaries.
The world's citizens were mobilised by information on how their
money was used by their country's banks, mining and arms industries
to serve apartheid. Ruth First's expose of farm-owners in Bethal
entrenched a tradition of investigative journalism that revealed
who carried the real cost. Despite Thatcher and Reagan's powerful
media machine that described Mandela as 'the terrorist who should
hang' informed citizens stood in solidarity against apartheid.
SA's democracy adopted a Constitution that signaled a significant
shift from the culture of secrecy that characterised our apartheid,
capitalist and patriarchal past to an open, free society
characterised by democratic transparency and accountability. It
proclaimed that: 'Everyone has the right of access to any
information held by the state; and any information that is held by
another person and that is required for the exercise or protection
of any rights.'
The preamble of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000
(PAIA) states that 'the system of government in SA before 1994,
resulted in a secretive and unresponsive culture in public and
private bodies which often led to an abuse of power and human
rights violations'. PAIA placed a duty on public and private bodies
to share information that would enable the poor and the powerless
to hold accountable those with the power and resources to undermine
or uphold their human rights.
The Constitution established independent statutory institutions to
'support Constitutional Democracy' such as the South African Human
Rights Commission (SAHRC). The SAHRC's mandate is to 'promote
respect for human rights and a culture of human rights; to promote
the protection, development and attainment of human rights and
monitor and assess the observance of human rights'. In addition the
SAHRC has a specific PAIA mandate. It has, among other things, to:
'Compile and make available a guide on how to use this Act; submit
reports to the National Assembly; to the extent that financial and
other resources are available it has to develop and conduct
educational programmes; encourage public and private bodies to
participate in the development and conduct of these programmes;
make recommendations for the development, modernisation, reform or
amendment of this Act and train information officers and deputy
information officers of public bodies.'
The SAHRC, with very limited resources but with dedicated staff,
compiled the PAIA guide; submitted annual reports to Parliament;
conducted educational programmes; trained large numbers of
government's information officers and their deputies on their duty
to ensure that the poor access the information they need from
government departments. However, PAIA (Section 83.2) recognises
that for the SAHRC to fully effect its Constitutional and
legislative mandate, it has to have 'financial and other
resources', including a dedicated Information commissioner, who has
still not been appointed. Compliance with this provision means that
government cannot continue to decrease the SAHRC's financial and
human resources, as it has been doing, (for example from the
Mandela administration to the current administration the number of
commissioners has reduced by almost 50 per cent).
To ensure access to information in the context of a Bill that will
diminish and deny this right, the SAHRC can play the role envisaged
in civil society submissions such as that of Laurie Nathan, if it
has the necessary 'financial and other resources'. After too short
a time and too few resources to effectively root PAIA within the
public service, the Bill may quickly return the public service to
the old bureaucratic culture of secrecy and impunity. In its 2009
Annual Report, the SAHRC reported to Parliament that under PAIA,
'More than 80% of local government structures remain
What happens when the poor lose faith in democratic institutions,
when their requests are not heeded and their opinions are not taken
into account? People know that budgets (from national to local
government) reflect policy priorities and choices. They reflect,
more than any rhetorical speech, who and what is valued...or not.
People want to know the basis for government's choices. A key
factor in many protests is the lack of access to information.
Those protesting over the lack of service delivery see many green,
well-watered golf courses in their local municipalities but no
houses, toilets, schools, clinics or well-equipped and maintained
playgrounds or sports-fields for their children. They ask who is
benefiting from million-rand tenders when bridges collapse and
children drown. They want to know why the cost of basic food is
increasing and why their sick children have to make choices between
food and medicine. Striking workers say society's claim to value
their contribution to social reproduction through education and
healthcare is not reflected in budget choices.
Ordinary citizens ask who profited from the arms-deals and the
building of stadiums. They want to know what economic, trade and
finance policies have resulted in them losing their jobs. They ask
where are the rights and choices for poor girls trafficked into
prostitution. They ask why, in the 21st century, they have no
toilets or toilets without walls. They want answers not just on the
symptoms of their poverty and lack of socio-economic rights but on
the causes of their poverty. Parliament has the power to ensure
that local to national government is held to account and that there
is not an even greater sense of impunity and disrespect for
compliance because of the Protection of Information Bill.
The SAHRC 2010 Parliamentary submission on the Protection of
Information Bill critiques the bill from the perspective of the
SAHRC's mandate to promote the right to access to information, the
direct opposite of the 'Secrecy Bill'. Its submission builds on its
earlier submissions on bills affecting information, including the
2008 version of this bill, and critiques the lack of harmonisation
between information bills. The SAHRC submission concurs with many
of the concerns of civil society, especially on the impact on the
rights of whistleblowers and journalists. The SAHRC systematic
clause by clause submission raises serious questions about matters
'The 'Minister's unfettered powers; the broad definition of
national interest (the bill states that "secrecy exists to protect
the national interest"); decision-making around categorisation,
classification, standards and procedures; the concentration of
power in the state over information management and protection of
information; the absence of a moderating independent body and the
fact that non-disclosure on the basis of commercial or financial
interests cannot be over-ridden by the public interest provided for
Developing a human rights culture requires a transformation of
institutions and mindsets. Post-1994, the culture of secrecy
continued to characterise government's most controversial decisions
including the adoption of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution
(GEAR) economic plan, the arms-deal and the HIV/Aids debacle.
A recent comment by Ronnie Kasrils, the former minister who first
introduced the 2008 Protection of Information Bill to deal with
existing apartheid-era legislation, critiques the ease and danger
of stepping back into old mind-sets. He argues, for example, that
the current bill deletes 'a provision that provided for the
automatic declassification (with limited exceptions) of all
information classified before 10 May 1994 (i.e. apartheid-era
classifications). This reflects an inexplicable desire to maintain
apartheid era secrecy'.
The current debate needs to interrogate the desire for secrecy
against the right to information in a society in which the lack of
socio-economic rights diminishes the ability to access political
and civil rights and vice-versa. It is a vicious cycle that the
further secrecy of the Protection of Information Bill, will only
deepen. The right to access to information that government itself
has put in place since 1994 needs to be upheld not undermined.
Those who are now entrusted with power and resources need to remain
committed to responsive, transparent and accountable government.
With media plan, ANC copies Nigeria's military rulers
Committee for Protect Journalists, September 24, 2010
By Mariama Keita with Mohamed Keita/CPJ Africa Staff
* Mariama Keita, a freelance journalist, is an intern in CPJ's
While South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC)
discusses the party's proposal for a media appeals tribunal,
delegates should take note of a landmark ruling in Nigeria this
year in which a High Court judge declared a government-dominated
press council unconstitutional (http://thenationonlineng.net/web3/news/7108.html).
Five months before the ANC's release of a discussion document
referencing a special tribunal for the media (http://www.anc.org.za/docs/discus/2010/mediad.pdf), Justice A.M.
Liman, a judge of Nigeria's Federal High Court ruled in favor of a
petition challenging the constitutionality of the Nigerian Press
Council, set up by decree during military rule in 1992
http://www.presscouncil.gov.ng). The press council membership of 19
included representatives from the media, the public, and the
government. "In theory this is fine, but in practice the majority
of these posts are appointed by the government, including the
current chairman who is not a journalist. He is an accountant,"
said Newspapers' Proprietors Association of Nigeria President
In Nigeria, government pursuit of a statutory press council dates
as far back as 1978, according to CPJ research, and has continued
under the country's various military and civilian rulers. Gen.
Ibrahim Babaginda, who is currently running as a civilian candidate
in presidential elections scheduled for next year, issued the
Nigerian Press Council Decree 85 of 1992 among other repressive
edicts such as the Offensive Publications (Proscription) Decree and
the Newspaper Registration Board Decree No. 43 of 1993.
Gbenga Adefaye, president of the Guild of Editors, said Babangida's
regime sought to legislate every possible aspect of media
activities. "There was a law to regulate advertising practice, a
law to regulate broadcasting, filmmaking, and they also wanted to
regulate the practice [of journalism]." In 1997, under the regime
of Gen. Sani Abacha, then-minister of information Walter Ofonagoro
threatened to set up a "press court" to charge journalists who
"report untruths." In 1999, the administration of another military
ruler, Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar, repackaged the registration Decree
No. 43 as the Nigerian Press Council (Amendment) Decree No. 60,
which threatened fines and jail time for non-compliant journalists.
It was then that a coalition of journalists fought back. "As a
result members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, the Nigeria Union
of Journalists, and NPAN refused to nominate members," according to
Nigeria's transition to democracy and the enactment of a new
constitution in 1999 gave a coalition of journalists the
opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the repressive
decrees. "When the military was in power, the government had
legislation in place not to entertain press freedom cases. We now
have the freedom to go to court," said veteran journalist Ray Ekpu,
one of the petitioners. The democratic transition did not, however,
stop legislative efforts by politicians to regulate the press.
"They wanted government to open a register and deregister
journalists, to legislate salaries, which is crazy in a free market
economy, to determine qualifications to enter profession," said
Adefaye, referring to the Nigerian Press and Practice of Journalism
Council Bill, which was withdrawn under intense criticism in 2009.
The government has appealed the constitutional review ruling,
reported veteran journalist Lanre Idowu, but Adefaye told CPJ that
"even if they appeal, it's a major constitutional victory for us."
In South Africa, ANC officials, including President Jacob Zuma,
have proposed a media tribunal "accountable to parliament"--a
chamber dominated by Zuma's party--and criticized South Africa's
self-regulatory Press Council and ombudsman. ANC officials went as
far as making claims that the proposed media tribunal would benefit
South Africans unable to afford civil libel lawyers. "Here, [the
poor] would have an institution to go to," Zuma declared before
parliament this month. In fact, the poor have not been the target
of the kind of press scrutiny that is devoted to the ANC and the
government. In his remarks, Zuma, whose personal scandals have
filled newspaper columns, appeared to allude to this. "We are
concerned because a lot of pain has been caused by how the media
has been reporting on certain individuals in the country."
Similarly, press scrutiny has led governments in Botswana and
Zambia in efforts to force the press under statutory regulation. In
Uganda, journalists like Peter Mwesige are challenging government
legislation seeking to empower a statutory media council, already
dominated by the government, to sanction vague offenses like the
"publication of "information injurious to national security" or the
Most journalists and press freedom advocates believe--and the
record of government-led regulation of the media in Africa has
proven--that allowing politicians to regulate the press inevitably
leads to political censorship of the news media. The statutory
press council in Nigeria had "rather created an illicit ombudsman
in the [Nigerian statutory press] council, which will certainly be
used to define and tailor the editorial directions and policies of
the media," wrote Justice Liman in his decision. As for one of the
victorious petitioners, Adefaye, the NPAN and the Nigerian Guild of
Editors have replicated the South African model of an ombudsman and
a self-regulatory press council. "For us, if there is any form of
regulation, it should be done by [media] stakeholders. No
government really wants the press to be completely free," he said.
ANC NGC sends a softer, cuddlier media appeals tribunal to
The Daily Maverick, September 24, 2010
One feature of the ANC's bottom-up decision making is that bodies
like its NGC have all the say, in theory. So now that the NGC has
had its say on the media appeals tribunal, everything said by ANC
leaders up to this point becomes null and void, and the NGC's view
reigns supreme for at least a couple of years. And what the NGC had
to say about government regulation of media is almost entirely
unlike everything ANC leaders have said to date.
By Phillip de Wet and Stephen Grootes
There were some remarkable scenes in the media ghetto on the
outskirts of the ANC's national general council meeting in Durban
on Thursday night and early Friday morning, as journalists were
finally briefed on the outcome of discussions in the media
Despite the late hour, old hand Pallo Jordan cheerfully took on
journalists in defending the ANC's track record on media freedom,
declaring the local media landscape to have fundamental problems
and dismissing concerns about media restrictions as hysterical.
That is a scene that has played itself out many times in recent
months, at various debates and discussions and seminars around the
country. This time, though, it was different. With Jordan in charge
the whole thing had the atmosphere of debating club rather than
mortal combat. Perhaps that was because Jordan had a trick up his
sleeve. He presented a resolution which included the media appeals
tribunal, but did not make it central - and contains some
provisions that makes the body seem almost benign.
The resolution, as presented to journalists verbally, is a thing of
diplomatic beauty for all its clumsy wording, and is worth
considering in full.
Here is the text:
The existing self-regulatory system (Press Ombudsman and Press
Council) is ineffective and needs to be strengthened to balance the
rights of the media and those of other citizens, guided by the
values enshrined in our bill of rights, for example human dignity,
equality and freedom.
The commission affirmed the call for Parliament to conduct a public
- balancing the rights enshrined in the Constitution, like rights
to dignity, freedom of expression and media, guided by the values
enshrined in our bill of rights, human dignity, equality and
- enquiry on transformation of the print media in respect of a
[black economic empowerment] media charter, ownership and control,
advertising and marketing and the desirability of the establishment
of a media accountability mechanism, for example the media appeals
- the media accountability mechanism [should be] in the public
interest including the investigations into the best international
practices, without compromising the values enshrined in our
- on what regulatory mechanisms can be put in place to ensure the
effective balancing of rights, this may include self-regulation,
co-regulation and independent regulation. Any media accountability
mechanism, should be independent of commercial and party political
interests, should act without fear, favour and prejudice, should be
empowered to impose appropriate sanctions and must not be
In preparation for this enquiry, the ANC will itself submit to
Parliament its own submissions.
Let's start at the beginning. The ANC will give Parliament what
amounts to an instruction (given its majority) to consider the
desirability of a media appeals tribunal. Which the ANC has made
abundantly clear it considers desirable, so consider the
establishment a done deal, never mind Jordan's technically correct
protestations that the legislature can do whatever the hell it
pleases, including throwing the whole concept out.
However, in the very same breath the NGC has added a number of
restrictions on the nature of such a body and how it should
operate. Keep in mind that this is a Parliament that once
considered removing the word "independent" from the name of the
Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), the
broadcasting the telecoms regulator. Icasa, which though often
incompetent and bungling, has stayed clear of controversy when it
comes to actual content, is clearly the model the NGC had in mind.
Independence isn't easily defined, of course. Baleka Mbete always
claims Parliament is independent, and thus it should appoint a
tribunal as the representatives of the people it will serve. That
is hogwash, and an ANC-aligned tribunal chosen by an ANC-dominated
Parliament with a mandate to further the causes of the party is one
of the great fears of media institutions. During the media scrum
after his official appearance, Jordan said Parliament should not
appoint the tribunal, because a way must be found to make it more
independent. That would represent a major shift in ANC thinking,
and could be the one change that makes newspapers sign up to the
Also important is the continual invocation of the Constitution.
Questioned about the outpouring of foreign concern about the ANC's
apparent determination to regulate the media, Jordan said those
statements were nuanced. "As far as I've been able to make out, not
one has said 'this is wrong'. They have said South Africa has a
good Constitution, and whatever institution you create should be
consistent with the values of that Constitution."
Take a step back from the detail, and the whole thing actually
amounts to a retreat from the fiery days of ANC spokesman Jackson
Mthembu's let's-arrest-journalists approach. This resolution is
very similar to what was agreed at Polokwane, a political epoch
ago. That does not, by any stretch of the imagination, represent
progress on the part of any dark forces within the ANC that want
the media gagged.
Suddenly, in what we will henceforth refer to as the post-Pallo era
of the media tribunal, the idea looks like a typical ANC storm, the
type we've seen around several issues before. Lots of sound and
fury, with the media (including us) reporting on those who shouted
the loudest and seemed to represent the greatest threat. When it
came down to it, though, pragmatism won the day. Because even if
such a body is considered to be "desirable" there's still the
hurdle of "feasible" to get through.
Parliament is a strange place sometimes. But its recent track
record is such that it's only when there is real political will
driving it that something can happen fast. The death of the
Scorpions is the obvious example. We don't see that strong, united
political will here. Not yet. That could change, but until it does,
we see the issue of the media tribunal taking a long, leisurely
tour through the land of position papers, public hearings and
redrafting. What comes out the other end, far into the future, is
highly unlikely to please the Mthembu-style firebrands.
There are plenty of other things in the NGC discussions and
resolutions for the media industry to be worried about - on a
corporate level. The ANC intends to let slip the competition hounds
on the entire newspaper printing industry, on suspicion that there
is anti-competitive behaviour afoot. The party still wants its very
own newspaper, some day, which will surely draw a lot of lucrative
government advertising away from other papers. Black economic
empowerment targets in the newspaper business will probably be
among the highest around, if ANC negotiators get their way.
Whatever the ANC believes, though, none of those issues will have
a tangible impact on the editorial side. They do not threaten the
watchdog role of the media, at least not directly. They are nothing
more than the everyday hazards of doing business in South Africa.
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