South Africa’s media should be praised for “robustly defending and growing Press Freedom”. The country recognises Media Freedom Day (Black Wednesday) on 19 October annually, marking the day Apartheid justice minister Jimmy Kruger banned three newspapers: the World, the Weekend World and the Voice in 1977.
Executive director of the Press Council of South Africa, Latiefa Mobara, said Press Council members had “extended democracy and ensured an open society by robustly exposing corruption and malfeasance at all levels of society”.
Mobara said as we celebrate Media Freedom Day– which marks Black Wednesday – South Africa’s media can be immensely proud of what they have achieved in the most difficult trading conditions to reinforce, extend and defend hard-won, responsible media freedom in our country. We salute them and are proud to have played our part in this.”
She added: “Our remarkable press freedom and the determination of the media to expose wrongdoing is playing a vital role in society. Overwhelmingly, media owners and journalists endorse and implement the Press Code of South Africa in their reporting.
“Our Code ensures that journalism is fair, that it is accurate, responsible and accountable. The Press Council keeps journalism fair by mediating and adjudicating complaints against our members – and it is fair to say that in the vast majority of complaints we find that our members have adhered to the Press Code.
“As a result South Africa’s media – particularly those who subscribe to the Press Council – are trusted in a world where fake news and untested allegations and rumours abound.”
Mobara said that in the decade from 2013, the Press Council had received just over 5 000 complaints against its members.
“In the vast majority of cases our Public Advocate and Press Ombuds found in favour of the media. For example, in 2021, we received 845 complaints. Of those only 32 were referred to the Press Ombuds for adjudication; and only three were taken on appeal to the Press Council’s Appeals Panel.
“The majority of the complaints were resolved by mediation by the Press Council’s Public Advocate, Fanie Groenewald; or were declined as having no merit or were withdrawn by the complainants.
“We are often accused by complainants of being biased in favour of our media members. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our independent co-regulatory system of mediation and adjudication is designed to ensure majority public representation at every level.
“Our Ombuds are independent and robust. Our Public Advocate assists complainants throughout the process. Those unhappy with rulings can appeal to an independent Appeal Panel, chaired by former judge, Judge Bernard Ngoepe.
“We are very proud of the robustness and independence of our mediation and adjudication system. Complainants get a very fair hearing.”