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The struggle for press self-regulation in contemporary South Africa: charting a - page 14 / 51

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the need or otherwise for a media tribunal to address these matters.”

There was no real explanation as to why unhappiness with the media’s judgement calls on balancing rights should require a new system to replace the existing one. Further, the Minister of Health did not resort to the Press Council about the intrusion into her medical records, nor did she sue the newspapers concerned. For his part, Jacob Zuma did reportedly launch at least seven civil actions against the media for alleged defamation and violation of person dignity, rather than giving the issue a try at the Press Council. ANC officials subsequently rationalised the lack of usage of the existing system as being because it required complainants to waive their legal rights to go to court or other regulatory bodies if they wished to use the Council system. This issue is further discussed below. They also accused the Council, although without evidence, of being slow and unresponsive when it came to handling complaints.  However, none of these arguments wholly justified the tribunal proposal as opposed to some reform of the existing institution.

That the ANC at that point in time deemed it necessary to consider setting up a different structure to regulate the press, and to not use the Council, thus seemed more to be a function of political desire to control rather than serious concern over the balancing of rights.

Thus, according to Essop Pahad, minister in the presidency speaking during 2008, there were “very, very, very strong views” in the ANC, about the media’s coverage of the party (Berger 2007a, 2007b). He also raised critical questions of the existing system, urging it to go further than just receive and consider complaints; in other words, to proactively and its own right, identify and prosecute problematic journalism. The response from the then retired Ombudsman, Ed Linington, was that the office was not a policing or prosecution service, only a recipient of complaints and did not itself bring complaints to the table. Similarly, on a later occasion, Council chairperson Raymond Louw has argued that “for the Ombudsman to become a policeman and prosecutor and a judge all in one, … poses a great many problems.” (frayintermedia 2008)

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