Johannesburg - The media plays a big role in holding authorities accountable in a constitutional democracy, the Freedom Front Plus said on Friday.
“These latest comments infringe on freedom of speech,” said FF Plus communications spokesman Anton Alberts.
“It is an over-reaction on the side of government because the media in South Africa plays a big role as watchdog for the public and to call authority structures to order.”
On Thursday, acting SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng proposed that journalists have a licence to practise like those in the medical and law professions.
He said journalists who acted unprofessionally should be stripped of their licences.
“You know when you are a journalist, you are a professional journalist. If you don't have ethics and principles and you mislead on your reporting, like lawyers... if you commit any mistake they take your licence,” he was quoted as saying by the SABC.
“We should do the same thing with journalists. That is what we need to do if we want to build South Africa.”
He was speaking at the annual Joburg Radio Days at Wits University in Johannesburg.
Alberts said a press ombudsman was established, as part of self-regulation, to prevent unfair and unreasonable journalism.
The ombudsman can be used instead of regulating the media externally.
“There are various examples in just the past couple of weeks alone about the effectiveness of the press ombudsman,” he said.
Earlier on Friday, the SA National Editors' Forum said Motsoeneng's statement revealed his ignorance about journalistic practice in a democracy.
“It is unfortunate that the remarks come from a high-ranking official of the public broadcaster, one of the biggest media houses in the country. The proposal is at odds with freedom of speech which is enshrined in the Constitution,” Sanef said in a statement.
In February, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released a report “When governance and ethics fail” which found Motsoeneng's SABC appointment irregular. Among other things, his salary increased from R1.5 million to R2.4m in one year.
She found he had misrepresented his qualifications - that he passed matric - to the SABC, and recommended that he be replaced.