Changes to Secrecy Bill is still possible
THE ANC has hinted strongly that it might allow changes to the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, including a "public interest defence".
Speaking at a World Press Freedom Day seminar at Rhodes University last week, the ruling party's national spokesman, Jackson Mthembu, said the ANC had taken note of opposition to the bill from opposition political parties, civil society and alliance partner Cosatu.
A conciliatory Mthembu suggested that the ANC might yet allow a clause on public interest defence to be included in the bill before it was passed in Parliament.
Pointing out that the ANC had not yet made submissions to the National Council of Provinces' (NCOP) hearings on the bill, Mthembu said: "I don't think the ANC has made a presentation to the NCOP committee that we don't want a public interest clause in the bill.
"We are not an arrogant bunch (in the) governing party. We are a party that can listen. We have been influenced many times by other parliamentarians, by civil society (and) Cosatu," Mthembu said, referring also to the ruling party's concession to Cosatu on the implementation of e-tolling.
Welcoming newspaper industry proposals last week on independent regulation, Mthembu said it had not been the ANC's intention to do away with press freedom.
"We fought for press freedom. It has never been our wish to see our press regulated by government like in other countries."
He said the party wanted an independent regulator to ensure the media adhered to its own code of conduct.
"If other (media) are so arrogant that they don't want to adhere to a code, let there be sanctions so that they adhere."
He said the ANC was happy that the proposals presented by the retired chief Pius Langa-headed Press Freedom Commission included the threat of expulsion and monetary sanctions.
"We are still sticking to our media charter, which says the press must be free of any government and business interest. Where it sees corruption, the press must speak without fear or favour. But it must speak with facts, it must have the capacity for research (and) to train journalists properly and the code (of conduct) must be adhered to."
He said the tribunal proposal was a response to insufficient public safeguards in media codes.
"You cannot have a professional body and people go against the grain of your code and Constitution day in and day out and all they have to do is apologise."
Mthembu also said it was inappropriate that there were only four mainstream newspaper groups in SA.