Complaints and findings by the Press Ombudsman on the ANC and ANC-led government: A case study
Cilliers, Gloria Edwards
Froneman, Johannes D.
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A growing crisis of confidence between the ANC and the ANC-led government and the press came to a head in 2010/11. The ANC suggested the creation of a statutory press tribunal and supported the Protection of Information Bill, both regarded as an infringement on freedom of the press by critics. Parallel to this, a review process of the voluntary self-regulation system took place, followed by another commission on press self-regulation. The result was a new system of ‘independent co-regulation’, which was implemented on February 1, 2013. This article takes a step back to investigate the possible reasons why the ANC and the ANC-led government were so critical of the old system of self-regulation. The success (or lack thereof) experienced by the ANC and the ANC-led government in their complaints to the Press Ombudsman could arguably have played some role in shaping their views. It was found that of the total of 593 cases dealt with in the period August 2007 to August 2011, 91 were lodged by representatives of one or another government entity and the ANC, accounting for 15 per cent of the total. The Ombudsman upheld the highest number of government complaints compared to other complainant types, but this only came to 14 per cent. This is regarded as noteworthy, considering one of the ANC's major criticisms, namely that the ombudsman was biased towards the press in his rulings. This finding was, however, not conclusive in any way. While the full findings may be of some value to determine, in conjunction with other factors, why the ANC and the ANC-led government were so critical towards the press, we also need to seriously consider the reality that their philosophical position(s) regarding press freedom and responsibility (which underpins self-regulation), may be steeped in other normative media positions.