Independent Media has launched its internal Office of the Ombudsman along with a fully constituted adjudication and appeals panel in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town.
The formal launch of the Office of the Ombudsman follows the adoption of Independent Media's Press Code, which took place after months of robust engagement and development.
Speaking at the launch, Dr Iqbal Survé, executive chairman of Independent Media, said the group remains totally committed to the self-regulation of the media and is vehemently opposed to any state regulation of the media.
“We are completely and utterly opposed to a media tribunal in South Africa. We will not support the involvement of the state in the media. Our need for freedom is important and this must be cherished. Our withdrawal from the Press Council and the appointed of our internal Press Ombud should not be construed as support for a tribunal. It is unnecessary and undemocratic and goes against our Constitution,” said Dr Survé.
He said that the media can regulate itself provided it has the correct calibre of people which we can be seen from the constitution of Independent Media’s Press Ombud Office and Adjudication and Appeals panels.
The Adjudication Panels will be chaired by Independent Media's Group Ombudsman Jovial Rantao, who was appointed into this position in October last year. Rantao is one of the most experienced editors in South Africa. He is the chairperson of The African Editors Forum and the Southern African Editors Forum. The Appeals Panel will be chaired by retired Constitutional Court Judge, Zak Yacoob, a respected jurist, human rights lawyer and judge recognised all over the world for his legal acumen and experience.
Rantao said the publication of the Code was an important moment in the history of Independent Media, one of the major pillars of media in South Africa. “This is the editorial bible for all our journalists and is our pledge to our readers and the general public, to uphold the highest standards of journalism. We will hold editors and journalists in all our titles accountable on behalf of the public. We will act without fear or favour," Rantao said.
Independent Media’s Press Code was developed after engagement with the Press Council on various matters and, in particular, the reintroduction of the waiver clause, ended in an impasse. The removal of the waiver by the Press Council had the unintended consequences of involving Independent Media and other media houses in potential excessively costly litigation. The Independent Media Press Code addresses this anomaly.
Rantao highlighted three major differences between Independent Media’s Press Code and that followed by the Press Council:
No complaint shall be accepted unless the complainant or the person affected by the publication has waived his or her rights to institute an action or application in any court or any other tribunal. The waiver shall be unequivocal and in accordance with a prescribed form that the complainant would be required to fill in; any person other than a natural person, a registered non-profit organisation or a Public Benefit Organisation, shall pay a refundable deposit of R5,000 before the complaint will be considered. The deposit will only become payable if no settlement is reached. If the complaint is upheld substantially, the deposit will be refunded to the complainant; and the complaint will be referred to the regional editor who will attempt to broker a solution or settlement within 14 days. The regional editor will only entertain the complaint if the complainant has submitted full particulars as well as a copy of the offending article; identified reasons for the complaints; identified which rights have been breached and what, if any, harm has been suffered as a consequence of the publication. If there is no settlement, the regional editor would then advise the complainant to approach the Independent Press Ombudsman and outline the procedure to be followed. The Independent Media Press Ombudsman will decide if a ruling can be passed based on the documents submitted by the complainant and the editor or whether a hearing should be held.
Following a nationwide public call for participation, Independent Media also announced the members of its Adjudication and Appeals panels.
CHAIRPERSON: JOVIAL RANTAO
Michael Celumusa Buthelezi
Prof. William Gumede
Advocate Nthabiseng Mokoena
Paul Gregory Esselaar
CHAIRPERSON: JUDGE Z. YACOOB
Dr Survé encouraged the millions of South Africans who read Independent’s titles to make use of the Office of the Independent Media Press Ombud for resolution of their concerns.
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