ANC’s Mantashe suggests the Press Ombudsman is biased. In fact, he’s been rather kind to the government.

July 7, 2010

African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has resurrected the idea of a statutory tribunal to police the media. According to a report in Business Day, he accused the media of “negativity” in their coverage of the ANC government and said the Press Ombudsman is unable to deal effectively with unethical journalism, which he claimed was “very prevalent”.

I don’t think we have to worry too much about this; a statutory media council would be too gross an infringement of media freeom to pass constitutional muster. Be that as it may, Mantashe should be called to account. What exactly does he mean by “negativity”? Reports about failures of service delivery? About corruption? And can he give examples to support his blanket statement that “self-regulation does not work”? Mantashe states that the current Ombudsman cannot fairly adjudicate complaints against the press because he is a former journalist, making him inherently biased. But is that the case? In fact, the evidence suggests the opposite.

I did a quick analysis of Press Ombudsman rulings over the past three years, and found only five cases in which the ANC, the government or a senior government official submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman. Two of those were upheld, two were partially upheld, and one was dismissed on appeal. Hardly evidence of pro-press bias!

If Mantashe and his party have genuine grievances about press coverage, perhaps they should make use of the Press Ombudsman’s complaints mechanism before declaring that it doesn’t work. They may just be surprised.


Jurie Els v Huisgenoot: small victory for press freedom

March 19, 2009

A small victory for press freedom: the High Court rejects singer Jurie Els’ application to have Huisgenoot editor Esmare Weideman jailed for contempt of court. Els last year obtained an interdict against Huisgenoot preventing the magazine from identifying him as the person accused of sexual assault on another singer, Robbie Klay. Huisgenoot published Klay’s account, but blacked out all references to Els. In her editorial, however, Weideman revealed that Els had obtained an interdict against the magazine, enabling her readers to put two and two together. This, Els, argued, amounted to contempt in the face of the interdict.

Not so, said Mr Justice Daniel Dlodlo in the Cape the High Court. Els had not provided evidence that Weideman had the intention circumvent the interdict.

Read the full story story in Beeld. I previously dicussed the case in my Thought Leader blog.