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The struggle for press self-regulation in contemporary South Africa: charting a - page 11 / 51

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Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1997), and the legacy was scrutinized by the Human Rights Commission investigation into racism in the media (1999-2000). This whole history also informed the scepticism with which the ANC even after a decade of democracy viewed the press and self-regulation in particular.

With the advent of democracy in 1994, the council system was dropped by the newspaper industry and replaced by a much scaled-down version. Thus in 1996 the expanded  industry-owners body Print Media South Africa (PMSA), the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), the Media Workers’ Association of South Africa, and the South African Union of Journalists (SAUJ) set up the office of the Press Ombudsman and an Appeal Panel. These were presented as providing an accessible, cheap, impartial and independent complaints mechanism, and as offering solutions through settlement or adjudication of complaints in accordance with a Code of Conduct. Fourie and Wigston (2005) record that the system could nevertheless still be criticised for its powers being limited to enforcing the publication of reprimands and corrections.  Even with this, however, what was apparent however was poor compliance with Ombudsman rulings by newspapers like City Press, and undermining of these by publishing rebuttals (as in the case of Xolela Mangcu) in the Sunday Times. The low point was City Press editor Vusi Mona publishing an unverified article claiming that the public prosector behind a corruption probe in to ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma had been a spy for the apartheid regime. (Berger, 2007b)

Greater criticism came over the poor visibility of the office and the Ombudsman, retired editor of the South African Press Association, Ed Linington. There were also major concerns about the prevalence of poor ethics in the press not withstanding the existence of the system (according to studies conducted by SANEF. These sentiments, internal to the industry, led to a restructuring after a number of years. Thus in 2007, the Ombudsman’s position was relocated in a re-invented Press Council and Appeals Board which today includes members of the public as well as the press. The basis of the system today is a Code of Conduct (slightly updated from that used by its predecessor). The previous Ombudsman, Ed Linington, retired and was replaced by veteran journalist Joe

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