What happens once I have lodged a complaint?
The Public Advocate (PA) must first accept the complaint. He/She can dismiss a complaint if it has no reasonable chance of success or if there is no prima facie breach of the Code. If the PA accepts your complaint he/she will attempt to mediate the complaint between you and the publication involved. He/She will ask the publication for its response to the complaint, after which you will get an opportunity to reply to that response. The PA acts as your “advocate” with the publication and will help you to frame your complaint in terms of the Press Code. The aim of mediation is to reach an amicable agreement between you and the publication. If this mediation fails, the PA will forward the matter to the Press Ombud or one of the Deputy Press Ombuds for adjudication. The Ombud will either decide the matter on papers, or convene a hearing with an Adjudication Panel, with one public and one press member of the Panel of Adjudicators. At hearings, both sides get an opportunity to state their case; both sides may also ask the other side questions. The Public Advocate can assist you at the hearing.
• The Panel of Adjudicators consists of 8 public representatives and 6 press representatives. Positions for public representatives are advertised and they are appointed by the Appointments Panel of the Press Council. Council’s constituent bodies appoint their own representatives.
What happens if I apply for leave to appeal?
If the Press Ombud or an Adjudication Panel dismisses your complaint, you can apply for leave to appeal to the Chair of the Appeals Panel, who is also a retired judge appointed on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of South Africa. He first considers the application for leave to appeal – deciding whether it is possible that an Appeal Panel could come to a different conclusion from that of the Ombud or Adjudication Panel. If he thinks not, he will dismiss the application in writing, giving his reasons. If he thinks it is possible, he will convene an Appeal Hearing. At this hearing he will be joined by one press representative and one or more public representatives from the Panel of Adjudicators. Anyone who sat with the Press Ombud on the Adjudication Panel is excluded from sitting on the same matter in an Appeal Hearing.