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Some of Independent's publications.

Independent Media, a South Africa-based publisher, has quit the Press Council of South Africa. Independent Media’s dozen publications including the Johannesburg Star, the Cape Times, the Cape Argus, and the Independent Online (IOL.co.za), will now be regulated by a new in-house ombudsman, Jovial Rantao, News 24 reported.

Independent Media “cited the absence of a waiver – the declaration by which complainants waive their rights to continue with a complaint in a court or other tribunal after submission to the Press Council – as its reason for leaving,” according to the Times Live — meaning Independent Media wanted people who complain to the press council to agree not to take the publication to court.

However, the Press Council said Independent Media was “intimately involved in the 2012 decision to remove the waiver.” In a three-page statement sent to iMediaEthics, the council defended itself as independent and accountable to readers, and called the Independent’s withdrawal “not a mortal blow to the Press Council and its work.”

The council noted that it has been trying “to find a solution to” Independent Media’s complaints about the waiver and that “in the meantime,  we’ve been adjudicating in complaints against Independent – 72 print and five online stories this year alone.”

“After a meeting with Independent last month the Press Council sent the company our proposed solution‚ hoping we would engage on it,” the council said. “Suddenly‚ this inexplicable decision to abandon the Press Council explodes in our faces.”

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The Press Council’s Oct. 21 statement also compared quitting the council to Black Wednesday (the day in 1977 when apartheid South Africa arrested journalists and banned newspapers).

Independent Media  responded by saying it rejects the comparison and that the company had warned the press council it was concerned about the lack of a waiver and was thinking about leaving.

iMediaEthics has written to Independent Media for further comment.

Hat Tip: Ethical Journalism Network

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South Africa’s Independent Media Quits Press Council

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