South Africa's governing party says tribunal for journalists needed to 'punish' bad acts

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's governing party said Tuesday that the country needs a special tribunal to regulate the work of journalists, a proposal that has drawn sharp criticism from local and international media organizations.

The tribunal would be given powers to rule on media content and to impose unspecified penalties on journalists.

African National Congress spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the party has found numerous instances of news stories that were intentionally damaging to subjects' reputations and dignity.

"Your freedom does not supersede the other freedoms that are there," Jackson told journalists Tuesday. "We say there must be punishment when journalists mess up with reputations and dignity of members of the society."

South African journalists have launched a campaign to fight what they say is an attempt to curtail media freedoms in a nation known for one of Africa's freest and most open constitutions.

Other legislation under consideration would allow South Africa's government to classify a broad range of material that is currently not secret. Under the new law, it would be illegal to leak or to publish information deemed classified by the government, and the offense would be punishable by imprisonment.

On Tuesday, the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) said it will do what ever it can to stop the proposed "Protection of Information Bill" and media tribunal.

"We are not opposing the ANC government but the bill and tribunal," said Guy David, secretary general of SANEF.


Associated Press Writer Thandisizwe Mgudlwa in Cape Town, South Africa contributed to this report.