Press Self-regulation: Dead or Alive?

By Jane Duncan


In the next few weeks, the Press Freedom Commission will be holding public hearings into the adequacy of the self regulatory system for the press. In terms of this system, complaints of unethical reporting are handled by the Press Council of South Africa (PCSA), which was set up and is run by the press and members of the public.

The Commission was established by the press industry representative body, Print Media South Africa and the South African National Editors’ Forum in the wake of the African National Congress’s (ANC) accusations about the existing system.

The ANC has complained that the PCSA favours the press and fails to protect the rights of citizens. It has championed the establishment of a statutory Media Appeals Tribunal, independent of the press, to hear appeals from the Press Ombudsman’s office: a move which will usher in statutory regulation, and possible state control of the press.

Press self-regulation has long been considered the gold standard of press regulation. Yet this system of regulation seemingly is undergoing an existential crisis in the wake of the phone tapping revelations in Britain. The self-regulatory Press Complaints Commission (PCC) failed to stem this and other intrusive practices by the tabloid press.

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