The number of complaints to the Press Ombudsman by aggrieved newspaper readers and newsmakers has jumped by 225 percent since 2009, a meeting of the SA National Editors' Forum was told on Saturday.

While a total of 151 complaints were received in 2009 the tally expected for 2013 was put at 490, Ombudsman Johan Retief told the quarterly editors' meeting at Umhlanga, north of Durban.

Previous ombudsman's reports have attributed the growing number of complaints to greater public awareness of the Press Council's steps to increase the effectiveness of dealing with complaints about inaccurate or unfair newspaper reporting.

A revamped system of independent co-regulation, introduced in February, provided for a public advocate to assist complainants in lodging their cases and also to try and have them resolved via direct contact with editors.

The newspaper industry's previous system of self-regulation had come under attack, especially from the governing African National Congress, for being “toothless” and it threatened to introduce a statutory tribunal to adjudicate complaints.

It later endorsed the industry's own revamped system.

Retief said the introduction of the public advocate's position had made a clear difference.

From mid-August to mid-November, the public advocate received 192 complaints, so far referring 58 of these to the Ombudsman and resolving 23. -Sapa