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The struggle for press self-regulation in contemporary South Africa: charting a - page 44 / 51





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decision may have been in theory, in practice it has failed. No systematic compilation of QPC doctrine exists.

The QPC keeps statistics about its complaints according to a scheme adopted in the mid-1970s. Cases are classified into one of 12 "motifs de plaintes." The classification decisions are made without reference to any written criteria, however, and QPC staff consider the categories to be essentially meaningless.

Internally, the staff and the members of the Comité des cas rely on a binder that contains summaries of principles derived by the staff from previous decisions. The binder, titled Index de la jurisprudence, groups topics into 27 categories. It is not entirely clear how the 27 categories relate, if at all, to the 12 "motifs de plaintes" used for classifying cases publicly. The origins of the Index are also a bit unclear. In mid-1989, no one affiliated with the QPC was certain who created the Index, although it is regularly updated by the administrative staff.

Externally, the QPC has published a pamphlet titled Les Droits et responsabilités de la presse, which outlines what might be considered QPC doctrine relating to five categories and 23 subcategories of journalistic endeavour. The pamphlet, published in English as well as in French, has circulated fairly widely among Quebec journalists. Like the Index, however, it cites no cases.

The lack of coherent jurisprudence frustrates members of the Comité des cas who would like to base their rulings on principles derived from precedent. In their reports for 1986 and 1987, for example, the presidents of the Comité des cas expressed wishes that better information about QPC doctrine be available to the committee in the future (Hébert, 1986; Pagé, 1987).

The QPC's failure to compile and index its jurisprudence in a coherent fashion has several effects. Because QPC staff have no efficient way to review previous decisions in a given topic area, QPC decisions rarely cite precedent. As a result, it is impossible for news organizations (and others) to know what the landmark QPC cases are. And it is impossible for courts to follow Nicole Vallière's suggestion that they use QPC decisions to determine whether defendants in libel cases have acted with sufficient rigor and prudence (Vallières, 1985).

The QPC is painfully aware of the shortcomings of the organization of its jurisprudence. However, it does not have the means to undertake the crucial indexing. In 1989 it asked the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to fund a project that would have created a computerized index of the QPC's decisions. The QPC sought $118,822, but the grant application was not successful. The result was that the problem remains as the QPC described it in the grant application: "La jurisprudence du Conseil ne contient pas, dans son état actuel, de paramètres qui permettraient d'en faire l'analyse et l'évaluation, d'une part. L'absence de toute indexation prive, d'autre part, les chercheurs et les utilisateurs ponctuels

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