Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

ANC policy conference delegates have called for Parliament to urgently implement a proposal calling for the establishment of a media appeals tribunal and a regulatory body for the print media.

This is according to ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu‚ who is also the head of the ANC’s sub-committee on communications. The call follows discussions on the media and the communications industry at the party’s policy conference in Nasrec in the south of Johannesburg.

Briefing journalists‚ Mthembu said the print media were a "powerful tool that could effect even a regime change" and had to be held accountable as to how they conducted their affairs.

The resolution was first adopted at the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung in 2012, but the government has stalled its implementation in the face of objections from leading media houses which said the move was a threat to press freedom.

Mthembu said delegates at the policy conference have urged Parliament to urgently conduct an inquiry into the best ways to regulate and hold the print media accountable. "What the commission has said‚ is that the inquiry must happen now‚" said Mthembu. "We will put our view on how print media should be regulated."

Mthembu said conference delegates argued that if Parliament had powers to appoint leaders of constitutional structures‚ it should also extend that authority to the print media.

"If Parliament can appoint the human rights commission for instance; if Parliament can appoint your independent electoral commission‚ all these critical bodies‚ Chapter 9 institutions‚ is it averse for us to think of a body that looks at the accountability of the media that is appointed in this manner? Will it be too much against the media freedom if we were to think along these lines? I am not advancing an ANC view‚ I’m just advancing what was being said in the commissions."

Mthembu said the ANC remained committed to media freedom and this move should not be seen as an attack on the media.

The print media have been under attack of late after exposing the influence of the Gupta family in government affairs‚ with entities such as the Black First Land First (BLF) attacking journalists, even at their homes.

Mthembu distanced the ANC from BLF and called for their immediate arrest‚ saying its attack on Tiso Black Star editor-at-large Peter Bruce at his house amounted to an act of intimidation and its members should be arrested immediately.

He said the ANC policy conference has also proposed that the Government Communication and Information System be returned to the political management of the Presidency to improve how government communicated with citizens.

The conference has also requested that government spokespeople jack-up their communication and interaction with the media.

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