The only option
Instead of the Protection of Information Bill and media appeals tribunals, Government and the ANC should be pressuring the media to jack up their own self-regulation to a point where justice and accountability can be seen in when the media get things wrong.
Government must realise that self-regulation is the only option. Anything else will be perceived to be censorship and subjugation of a free press. And perception, of course, is far more powerful than reality.
The other thing Government needs realise is that creating acts of Parliament and appeals, or any other kind of tribunals to watchdog the local news media, is becoming completely irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.
Far less news is being created by local journalists and the dissemination of news is not the exclusive bailiwick of local news media.
Start banning everyone
So, if the idea is to stop news media from accessing government information then government will have to ban cellphones among its own people. Its own civil servants. Because most insider stories about Government or the ANC are not initiated by journalists but by people in Government, in Cabinet and in party structures.
It is common knowledge that, wherever a group of people meet to discuss something in confidence, there will always be dissenters and those dissenters are the ones that leak news that governments and parties don't want the news media to get.
Ok, so won't the Protection of Information Bill solve that problem? No, because that act would only be able to be enforced in this country. And as time goes by, more and more people watch foreign news broadcasts and read foreign newspapers online.
Not just news media
So, in addition to banning cellphones among their own employees, Government will have to ban the BBC, Sky and all the other news media from operating in South Africa. That will stop that.
Actually, no, it won't because, as many Government officials have found to their detriment, news doesn't only come from the BBC, CNN, Sky and Al Jazeera. It comes from ordinary people with ordinary cellphones
And in South Africa just about our entire population has a cellphone.
So, logically, if the ANC wants to impose an effective tribunal on the media or want the Protection of Information Bill to work, it will have to think about banning the Internet, all cellphones, and all foreign correspondents, just for a start.
No secrets anymore
Logically, as the US government has just discovered with those leaked Afghan military documents, it is impossible to protect any sort of information, particularly if it is put down on paper or on a computer harddrive.
The media, in my opinion, is guilty of nothing other than listening to politicians and party members, along with businessmen and even members of religious orders, who have taken it upon themselves to use the media to air their grievances, to get their own back and stick a knife into the backs of competitors. And the media cannot find out if that information is correct when those exposed by the whistleblowers go into a state of complete denial.
This entire process is the very antithesis of transparency.
Establishing an independent media tribunal will do nothing more than create perceptions of excessive government control and will amount to nothing more than just shooting the messenger, while the real culprits get away scot-free.
This article was first published on brandrepublic.com