This blog follows the debate surrounding the state of media freedom in South Africa. It is compiled and written by Julie Reid, an academic and media analyst from the Department of Communication Science at the University of South Africa.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Are we rounding the corner on the media debate?

It's been an exciting day for those of us following the various (though inter-relatated) debates surrounding the state of the South African media and media freedom.

First, we heard last night that the Department of Communications has put the Public Service Broadcasting Bill on hold: this after various civil society groups made oral presentations last week Monday and Tuesday in Midrand, outlining their concerns with the bill in its current format.

Second, Dr Pallo Jordan seems to have changed his mind about a Media Appeals Tribunal. I have listened attentively to Dr Jordan at various discussions over the past month or so, and on each occasion he has emphatically supported the idea of a tribunal. He has even gone so far as to call those of us who oppose a Media Appeals Tribunal "hysterical", something which I was beginning to find rather irksome. Dr Jordan has systematically repeated the same arguments at a number of different discussions, debates and colloquia while always suggesting that critics of a Media Appeals Tribunal should stop complaining and rather engage in "sober discussions". Because I have never equated a legitemate concern for the health of my country's democracy (which may be damaged by the establishment of a Media Appeals Tribunal) as akin to drunkardness or hysteria, I took exception to Dr Jordan's recommendations.

No one was as surprised as me, then, this morning, when reports reached us that Pallo Jordan seems to have changed his mind about a media tribunal, apparently saying that the ANC is trying to create a "lose-lose situation" for itself. Referring to the ANC and according to News24: "Those who want to rubbish us will have every right to do so, said Jordan".

Well, that's a change.

The two developments of today make me think that perhaps, all the discussions, workshops, debates, conferences and colloquia are starting to pay off. Perhaps the Department of Communications and the ANC were always more open to listening to the various arguments presented to them by academics and civil society than some of us assumed them to be. Perhaps this is a first step to working together at finding reasonable solutions to fixing the things that are 'broken' in the South Arican media.

Jordan says NO to Media Tribunal

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