Media licensing poser for SAHRC

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Johannesburg - The SA Freelancers' Association (Safrea) will approach the SA Human Rights Commission regarding a proposal to “license” journalists, the organisation said on Wednesday.

Safrea chairman Clive Lotter said the statements made by SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng in this regard were “an assault on South African democracy”.

The Safrea would immediately lay a complaint with the SAHRC should such a proposal ever become law.

Lotter said such a policy would limit the public's access to information and right to free expression.

“The right to freedom of expression includes freedom of the press and other media. That right is enshrined in the South African Bill of Rights in Chapter two of the SA Constitution,” he said.

Motsoeneng said recently he would make a formal submission to Communications Minister Faith Muthambi that journalists have “a licence to practice”.

He said there must be consequences for journalists “who mess up”.

Lotter said licensing would erode journalists' right to report the news without fear or favour, particularly in view of Motsoeneng's stated preference for “good news” stories at the SABC.

Lotter said existing media outlets were well positioned to determine whether journalists working for them were acting professionally.

Lotter added that licensing would create a small elite of journalists who alone would be deemed worthy of reporting on South African society.

“In reality, we each have the right to write, report and express opinion on our political and social situation. We encourage Mr Motsoeneng and government to abandon this idea as it is fundamentally unworkable and at odds with the spirit of democratic South Africa,” said Lotter.

Sapa


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