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The struggle for press self-regulation in contemporary South Africa: charting a - page 37 / 51





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décision que pourrait rendre le Conseil de Presse du Québec quant à une plainte dans laquelle lui-même, son journal ou toute personne à son emploi serait impliqué. Telle publication doit survenir dans un délai de quinze (15) jours de sa divulgation par le Conseil de Presse."

As the wording of the contract suggests, the most important mechanism of media accountability in the province is the Quebec Press Council.

The Quebec Press Council

Inspired by the creation of the British Press Council in 1953, l'Union canadienne des journalistes de langue française in the late 1950s proposed a press council for Quebec. At the time, newspaper owners were uninterested, but throughout the 1960s discussions between journalists' groups and owners about the structure of an eventual press council continued. An agreement in principle was reached in 1971, and the Quebec Press Council began operations in 1973 (Clift, 1981; Gariépy, 1982). Today, the QPC is considered to be the most dynamic press council in North America, and perhaps anywhere.

The press council has 19 members--six designated by management organizations, six designated by journalists' organizations, and seven members of the public. Unlike the other major Canadian press councils, which accept complaints only against newspapers (and only against those who are members of the press council), the Quebec council accepts complaints against any news organization, even those that are not members of the QPC's constituent organizations. In addition, the QPC welcomes complaints from journalists who believe they have been hindered in the exercise of their work. Finally, the QPC has a greater degree of financial independence from the media than any other North American press council.

The Royal Commission on Newspapers said that only Quebec's council had the "vigor and authority" envisaged by Canada's earliest advocates of press councils (Royal Commission on Newspapers, 1981, p. 226). Claude-Jean Bertrand, a French scholar who has studied press councils worldwide, said that the structure of the QPC comes closer to the ideal press council structure than that of any other press council (Bertrand, 1985).

The fundamental objective of the QPC is "de protéger le droit du public à l'information libre, honnête et complète et de sauvegarder la liberté de presse" (Règlement général 3.1.1). The principal activity of the press council is adjudicating complaints about infringements of the public's right to complete and honest information, or of press freedom. Although the QPC makes rulings on many cases each year, it has no legal power to enforce its decisions, nor does it impose any sanctions. It disseminates information about its decisions widely in hopes that publicity about violations of ethical principles will educate and influence journalists and the public.

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