to be the case, however, is that on the press side, self-regulation has been put into stark context. If this has been a factor in editors respecting the rulings and in firing up the rhetoric in judgements, then that can only be an inducement to the ANC to itself make further use of the system.
In terms of Hadland’s criteria for the health of a self-regulatory system, it can be said that the South African one has emerged as one with independence from vested interests (both press and government), respect by member newspapers, and – at least as far as the ANC is concerned – awareness and acceptance of the legitimacy of the institution and its processes.
A threat to press freedom, whether it would sustained constitutional court challenge or not, has been averted. A course between a free-for-all on the one hand, and government control on the other, thus continues to be forged. As this author has concluded elsewhere: “In sum, self-regulation looks like it’s here for the long haul. That’s a fine thing for independent quality assurance of newspaper journalism … and for press freedom as well.” On the other hand, the notion of a self-regulatory body playing a more active role in developing media literacy is still relatively unrealised notwithstanding the proviso to this effect in the Press Council’s founding documents, and the broader comments of the Ombudsman. This is not to suggest that the system should evolve into the Observatory policing model as suggested by Pahad. But a lot more could be done as regards an educational role of promoting literacy around press freedom and self-regulation. That depends in part of the resourcing that the print media industry is prepared to invest in this longer term project. It may be that in the absence of this function flourishing and helping to create an enduring climate of respect for self regulation in the press and society at large, as an integral part of the texture of democratic life, it will only be a matter of time before the powers-that-be revive the idea of statutory regulation.
List of sources cited