Sat - 23.09.2017

U.S. media ask South Africa's president to shelve tribunal

U.S. media ask South Africa's president to shelve tribunal

A committee representing U.S. media groups is calling on South African President Jacob Zuma to end legislative proposals they say would "severely restrict" media in the country, Times Live reported yesterday.

"We call on you as the head of state and leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to ensure that such proposals are either amended in line with constitutional safeguards for freedom of the press and access to information, or withdrawn altogether in the interest of preserving the transparency, accountability, and democracy gained after apartheid," the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote. The committee includes The New York Times, NBC News, the Washington Post and others.

Over the weekend, Zuma, who has been the subject of "embarrassing stories about his private life," announced that the tribunal would help to defend the rights of citizens, the Financial Times reported. In addition, several of Zuma's ministers have been criticised by the press for using taxpayer money to "fund luxurious lifestyles."

South Africa's ruling political party, the ANC, has backed proposals to tighten controls on the media. The proposed tribunal would control print media in order to "enhance accountability and improve reporting," a senior ruling party official said. The Media Appeals Tribunal would investigate complaints against print media, and decide on punishments when it deems irresponsible reporting has taken place.

"Every single ANC spokesman who gets a platform slams the media as if we were ... Osama bin Laden," Mondii Makhanya, chairman of the National Editors' Forum, said in a debate, according to the FT.

He told the FT that the proposed tribunal would likely "be appointed by parliament and will report to parliament. Given that the ANC will be the majority party for the foreseeable future, it's clear what role the tribunal will play."

The ANC is also backing the Protection of Information Bill, which "is meant to replace an apartheid-era law dating from 1982... It would virtually shield the government from the scrutiny of the independent press and criminalise activities essential to investigative journalism, a vital public service," the letter stated, according to Times Live.


Leah McBride Mensching


2010-08-17 21:34

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