Picture: Marvin Charles/Cape Argus
Independent Media is “completely and utterly” opposed to a government-imposed, statutory media tribunal in South Africa, says its executive chairman, Dr Iqbal Survé.

“It is unnecessary and undemocratic and goes against our constitution,” he said yesterday, delivering the keynote address at the launch of the group's Ombud Office at the Table Bay Hotel at the Waterfront.

He told staff and guests: “Our need for freedom is important and this must be cherished.”

The company's withdrawal from the Press Council and the appointment of an internal Press Ombud should not be construed as support for a tribunal, said Survé. The group remained totally committed to self-regulation of the media and was vehemently opposed to any state regulation.

He said the media could regulate itself, provided it had the right calibre of people, such as those on Independent’s Press Ombud Office and Adjudication and Appeals panels.

Survé congratulated the company's group ombudsman, Jovial Rantao, on putting together the office and panels.

The Appeals panels are to be chaired by retired Constitutional Court justice Zak Yacoob.

Western Cape executive editor Gasant Abarder, who chaired the launch, said the Ombud’s Office would use “tough love” to ensure Independent Media's editors and journalists were kept on their toes.

This sentiment was echoed by Rantao, who said: “It doesn't matter if you're a celebrated editor or not, tough love is coming your way.” The adjudication panels are chaired by Rantao and in KZN: Brijilal Ramguthee and Michael Buthelezi; Gauteng, Professor

William Gumede, advocate Nthabiseng Mokoena; Western Cape, Ryland Fisher, Paul Esselaar.

The appeals panels are, in KZN: Dennis Pather, Fortunate Ngongo; Gauteng: Rich Mkhondo, Lloyd Mogotsi; Western Cape: Mansoor Jaffer and Ronald Bernickow.

The formal launch of the Office of the Ombud follows the adoption of Independent Media's Press Code, after months of robust engagement and development.

Rantao said the publication of the code was an important moment in the history of Independent, one of the major pillars of the media in South Africa.

“This is the editorial bible for all our journalists and is our pledge to our readers and the general public to uphold the highest standards of journalism. We will hold editors and journalists in all our titles accountable on behalf of the public. We will act without fear or favour,” said Rantao, who is also chairperson of the African Editors Forum and the Southern African Editors Forum.

Independent Media said: “The Press Code was developed after engagement with the Press Council on various matters and, in particular, the reintroduction of the waiver clause, ended in an impasse.

“The removal of the waiver by the Press Council had the unintended consequence of involving Independent Media and other media houses in potential excessively costly litigation. The Independent Media Press Code addresses this anomaly.”

Once a complaint is lodged, regional editors will try to resolve it with title editors, but if the complainant is not satisfied, it will be referred to an Adjudication Panel, and if still not resolved, to an Appeals Panel chaired by Justice Yacoob.

To view the Press Code go to https://www.iol.co.za/press-code

Complaints can be directed to: [email protected]