The South African Press Council is looking for an ombudsman and six “public representatives” and recently announced a re-haul of its regulation system.
According to job postings on BizCommunity.com, the Johannesburg-based ombudsman role will last “a term of five years, which may be renewed” and includes handling “complaints about journalistic ethics from the public.” The council is looking for six people to serve as “public representatives” and “join six press representatives on the council chaired by a retired judge.” Both ads note that:
“Any person who has any financial interest in the media, occupies a seat in the local, provincial or national legislative body or is an office-bearer of a political party or movement or is in the employ of the public service will not be eligible.”
The current ombudsman is Joe Thloloe. Thloloe told iMediaEthics by email that his “five-year contract expired at the end of July, as did the contracts of all the Press Council members.” The contracts up are: “The 12 members of the Press Council and the 12 members of the Press Appeals Panel and the chairperson of the Press Appeals Panel, Judge Zulman,” according to Thloloe, who explained:
“These were extended to the end of December to facilitate the transition to the new system.
“All of us are eligible to apply to renew our contracts. I haven’t decided yet whether to apply or not.”
Earlier this month, changes to the way South Africa’s Press Council works were announced, as an Oct. 5 All Africa report explained. iMediaEthics asked Thloloe for more information on the new system. Thloloe directed us to the Oct. 19 report on the Press Council’s website, which reported on “sweeping reforms to press regulations,” including “much stronger public participation in the Press Council of South Africa and its adjudication procedures.” The Press Council explained:
“The reforms move the press from self-regulation to voluntary independent co-regulation.”
The current system with “twelve members, half from the public and the other half from the press” running the Press Council, will be enhanced with “an independent chairperson” as “another public voice.” The council will also have a “director” and a “public advocate” to aid the council and ombudsman.
Also, the press council will now let complainants have the option to “appeal to the ordinary courts” after going through the press council’s process if necessary and the council will be able to penalize publications through “space and monetary fines.”
“Space fines” refer to blocking off space in the newspaper and is in response to the “frequent complaint” of newspaper’s burying apologies. The “monetary fines” aren’t for “content of a report” but for “failure to appear at an adjudication and repeated non-compliance with a ruling.”
Check out all of iMediaEthics’ reports on South African media ethics.