Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) condemns in the strongest possible terms the statement issued by the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) in which it dismissed allegations of hate speech against spokesperson Floyd Shivambu that are currently before the Equality Court as “lies and false.”
The statement [http://bit.ly/h9TPcB] went further and spoke in disparaging terms about the journalist involved. In doing so the ANCYL has essentially accused the journalist of lying. Not only is this defamatory, but the statement is also disingenuous as in the very next paragraph it goes on to say, “We are aware that the case is sub judice and that facts will be presented to the Equality Court and hence, the ANCYL will not entertain the issue further until it it [sic] before the Equality Court.”
In effect then the ANCYL presented its case in a press release instead of at the Equality Court which is clearly the most appropriate platform for this information. That the ANCYL would use a press release to make such strong allegations is even more startling when one considers that the accused’s legal team, sought to have media banned from the Equality Court proceedings. Their approach is neither consistent nor logical.
In another statement [http://bit.ly/dFk2qb] issued today the ANCYL responded to the decision by the Press Ombudsman not to launch an investigation into how a misquote came to be attributed to Mr Julius Malema in both The Star and Daily Sun newspapers. In it, the ANCYL criticised the Press Ombudsman as “toothless” and “pathetically useless”. It went further and claimed his decision supported its call “for an urgent establishment of the Media Appeals Tribunal” calling “self-regulation of the media in South Africa is a threat to democracy.”
MMA acknowledges that the ANCYL is entitled to criticise and voice their disapproval of the Press Ombudsman’s decision and indeed the self-regulatory process. MMA made a substantial submission on how the Press Council can and should be strengthened. To say that there are weaknesses with this system as it currently exists is common cause. The Press Council itself went so far as to host a series of public hearings for precisely that reason and is currently finalising a review.
All of these issues can, must and should be debated. This is one of the key reasons MMA started the MediaMattersZA initiative, to facilitate substantial and constructive discussions on how to make the Press Council more accountable, efficient and effective, and to address concerns of credibility.
To suggest, that “self-regulation of the media in South Africa is a threat to democracy” is not only inaccurate, but it also undermines the potentially valid points that a body like the ANCYL can and should be making. It should also be noted that the ANCYL did not take the opportunity to make substantial and considered input into the Press Council Review process. Far from building a case for a Media Appeals Tribunal as it claims, defamatory headline-seeking press statements do more to undermine the ANCYL’s argument.