Message of support from the International Partnership on Freedom of Expression in South Africa, which was on a joint mission to South Africa from Sept. 8-14, 2012.
The delegation was led by Freedom House and included representatives from ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).
The mission supports proposals from the media industry to address concerns about the management of complaints against newspapers. However, we strongly oppose the imposition of statutory regulations on print media and journalists, and urge the government to drop its proposal to create a Media Appeals Tribunal. Such a tribunal would damage South Africa’s hard-won reputation as a leader in press freedom on the continent.
“As a leading member of the African Union, we urge the South African government to adhere to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, which affirms that self-regulation is the best form of promoting high standards in the media,” said Zoe Titus, Executive Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa.
A free, independent, diverse and economically viable media is a critical pillar of a functioning democracy. The mission hopes that government and media stakeholders will continue their dialogue with a view towards creating an environment where independent and diverse media can flourish.
Freedom House supports the extensive process of review, consultation, and revisions to the current system of print media regulation in South Africa that has been undertaken by the Press Council. In line with international best practice recommendations in this field, Freedom House supports the principle of self-regulation as the soundest way to promote media independence with responsibility, and are opposed to the imposition of statutory regulation. We are encouraged that consensus has been reached within the industry on reforms to current procedures, and urge that these changes be implemented and be given a chance to work after they come into force, with the goal that the current system in place be strengthened by these positive reforms.
Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Ph.D.
Project Director, Freedom of the Press