Press Councils/Media Ombudsman
Media Council Statutes and Ombudsman Founding Statutes
With respect to the press, while some countries have established self-regulatory bodies that do not operate according to any law, other countries have legislated self-regulatory bodies into being. According to the African Media Development Initiative, only a few of these broadcasting regulators are independent. While their independence may be enshrined in statute, there is scepticism about the extent to which they are independent in practice.
Wisdom Tettey has distinguished between assigned accountability, where legal and formal regulatory systems define what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for the media, contracted accountability, where a contract is entered into between the media and its public regarding media performance, and self-imposed accountability, where the media evolve and enforce standards of behaviour voluntarily. This section contains examples of all three forms of accountability. Sometimes the drive to establish media Councils may not be entirely voluntary, as the media may establish such Councils only after threats of statutory regulation are made by governments.
Some Councils may confine themselves to hearing complaints, while others may also play a more proactive role, monitoring the state of journalism, lobbying for an enabling environment for the media, and offering training.
Media councils and Press Ombudsmen in Africa are established voluntarily or through statutory mechanisms. This essentially means that both Media Councils and Press Ombudsmen are either established by the state or self-imposed by media professionals, especially in environments where the state threatens to impose statutory regulation. Self-regulatory media councils and press ombudsmen are not controlled by the state and are largely independent. Self-imposed media councils and press ombudsmen seek to promote freedom of expression, ensure the highest standards of the media, promote ethical and journalistic standards and entrench independence and integrity of the media profession. They consider complaints and deal with complaints about media conduct. On the other hand, statutory media councils are assigned media councils that seek to regulate the mass media. They also claim to ensure freedom of expression and their major role is to arbitrate on disputes within or related to the industry and to promote ethical standards in the media by disciplining journalists.
(Source: Tettey, W. ‘The politics of media accountability in Africa: an examination of mechanisms and institutions’. International Communications Gazette, 2006, 68: 229)
Some examples of media council statutes and ombudsman founding statutes are provided below.
- Independent Communications Authority of South Africa
- The South African Press Council Constitution
- Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa
- Media and Information Commission
- Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe
- The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe