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The struggle for press self-regulation in contemporary South Africa: charting a - page 16 / 51





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That broadcasting self regulation operates on a different justification and rationale to print was not convincing to the ANC.

The current system has been likened to an agreed arbitration process between different interests, where participants voluntarily agree to accept the results as binding. However, strengthening the ANC case is that the difference here is that parties in the arbitration instance often do have cheap alternatives – such as the Small Claims Court and the Commission for Conciliation and Mediation. This is not entirely the case with the Press Council, inasmuch as at least the alternative of civil proceedings can be prohibitively expensive.

The wrangle over the tribunal took another turn six months later, after the policy conference when the ANC congress in Polokwane adopted a further resolution to investigate the “necessity or otherwise” of what was now elaborated as the “Media Appeals Tribunal” (ANC 2007b). The resolution dismissed the existing system of self-regulation as “not adequate to sufficiently protect the rights of the individual citizens, communities and society as a whole”. Significantly, it also stated that “freedom of expression shall not be elevated above other equally important rights such as the right to privacy and more important rights and values such as human dignity (Author’s emphasis)” (ANC 2007). Duncan (2008) points out that this resolution strongly implied that the ANC was no longer presenting itself as being concerned with balancing rights, but had now elevated dignity above freedom of expression as a general principle. The Polokwane document also stated that “the creation of a MAT would strengthen, complement and support the current self-regulatory institutions (Press Ombudsman/Press Council) in the public interest.” It continued: “This discourse on the need for a MAT should be located within a proper context. It has to be understood as an initiative to strengthen the human rights culture embodied in the principles of our Constitution … and an effort to guarantee the equal enjoyment of human rights by all citizens.”

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