During a colloquium on media freedom and regulation held at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, voices representing the media and civil society acknowledged that there was room for improvement to the self-regulatory system currently in place, however, they also condemned the proposal to establish a Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT).
Stephen Grootes of Eye Witness News, speaking in his own capacity, argued that the origins of the debate between the African National Congress (ANC) and the media were derived from the ANC's perceived attack by the media on prominent party members' dignity. He said that while the South African media tended to adopt a "worldly" view when it came to political commentary and reporting, a sizeable proportion of the population found it offensive. He cited cartoonist Zapiro's depiction of a showerhead on President Jacob Zuma's head as an example.
Under this premise, Grootes argued that the media therefore needed to engage Luthuli House with regard to the issue of dignity. He conceded that there needed to be more sanction if journalists made mistakes, however, the type of sanction required to discipline journalists was up for debate. Grootes went on to argue that the implementation of the MAT would tighten ANC control and would be detrimental to press freedom in the country, if established. However, its make-up would be of crucial importance and would be an extremely complicated process.
Wits Professor Franz Kruger looked at the reasons as to why the ANC harbours such resentment of the media. He argued that there was a deep-seated perception within Luthuli House that the media played a "dirty game" during President Zuma's corruption and rape trial, which exacerbated ideas that the media was biased against him.
Similar to Grootes, Kruger acknowledged that there was room for improvement with regard to the media's self-regulatory body. He argued that standards needed to be established and made widely known, so that irresponsible journalism was avoided. He said that there needed to be a more sophisticated use of journalistic sources in that they must be verifiable and not speculative. He added that there needed to be a clear distinction between reporting and commentary, and under no circumstances should there be any bias.
Although both speakers agreed that greater regulation was needed, they both argued that the establishment of the MAT was going too far, as it would give the ruling party too much control over media and effectively undermine its independence.