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The Press Freedom Commission needed to acknowledge the negative effect regulation would have on community newspapers, the Caxton Community Newspapers group said on Wednesday.
“Local community journalists are a vital link in the flow of information. Once the free flow of information is threatened, it is the beginning of the end,” Caxton representative Irma Green said in a presentation at the commission's public hearings into press regulation in Johannesburg.
“In the community journalistic sphere, Caxton newspapers have done their fair share of uncovering wrongdoings at the grassroot levels. The situation might be that journalists will then be scared to report on things.”
Green said Caxton supported self-regulation for the media, as well the Press Code as it currently stood, but suggested the Press Ombudsman took a more active role.
“The ombudsman should issue more regular 'state of the press' reports, and should bring infringements to individual newspapers, even if there were no formal complaints,” she said.
Print Media SA (PMSA), which is funding the commission, also made a submission, but did not suggest any potential forms of regulation.
“As funders of the process we respect its integrity, and will not make a suggestion. We will rather give the commission the context of print media in the country,” PMSA president Hoosain Karjieker said.
He said PMSA was addressing the need for gender equality and transformation in the industry.
“The criticism 1/8on transformation 3/8 has been levied at the low levels of black ownership and management within the largest print media houses,” Karjieker said.
“Pre-1994, few publications were aimed at the black market, but in 2011 there have been diverse print publications. Then, black editors made up seven percent of management, where now black editors make up 65 percent.”
He said women made up 46 percent of management in print media, and of that 24 percent was black.
“Addressing this challenge is at the core of the PMSA diversity management strategy which is currently being developed,” he said. - Sapa