CONSTITUTION OF THE PRESS COUNCIL OF SOUTH AFRICA

Preamble

  • Reaffirming that the Bill of Rights, which includes freedom of expression, which in turn includes freedom of the press, is a cornerstone of democracy;
  • Acknowledging that the South African Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and that South Africa is also party to the 2002 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, drawn up by the African Commission on Human and People's Rights, which states: “Effective self-regulation is the best system for promoting high standards in the media”;
  • Believing that the effectiveness of self-regulation by the print media is enhanced by public participation in a co-regulatory process;
  • Noting that the laws of the country allow for alternative dispute resolution through a speedy and cost-effective process; and
  • Accepting that co-regulation involving exclusively the press and the public will uphold freedom of expression and the editorial independence of the press, and contribute to high standards of journalism and ethical conduct;

We, the print media in South Africa, therefore establish a voluntary independent co-regulatory system involving exclusively representatives of the press and representatives of the public with the aims and objectives set out in this Constitution.

1. Establishment of the Press Council of South Africa


1.1. The South African Press, through the founding industry and professional bodies named in paragraph 1.2, establishes the Press Council of South Africa (''PCSA'' or

''Council''), in order to achieve the aims and objectives set out in paragraph 2 of this Constitution.


1.2. The founding associations are:


1.2.1. Print Media South Africa (PMSA), which includes:


1.2.1.1. The Newspaper Association of South Africa (NASA);


1.2.1.2. The Magazine Publishers Association of South Africa (MPASA);


1.2.1.3. The Association of Independent Publishers (AIP);


1.2.2. The Forum of Community Journalists (FCJ); and


1.2.3. The South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF), which also acts in trust for a journalists' association until such an association is formed.


1.3. The constituent associations named in 1.2. explicitly guarantee the independence of the PCSA, so that it can act without fear or favour in the interests of a free and ethical press, and in pursuit of the aims and objectives set out below.


2. Aims and Objectives


2.1. To promote and to develop ethical practice in journalism and to promote the adoption of and adherence to those standards by the South African press;


2.2. To adopt the SA Press Code as a guide to excellent practice, and to act as its custodian;


2.3. To establish and maintain a voluntary independent mechanism to deal with complaints about journalistic ethics from the public against member publications of

PMSA and others who subscribe to the SA Press Code;


2.4. To promote and preserve the right of freedom of expression, including freedom of the press as guaranteed in Section 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa;


2.5. To promote the concept of independent press co-regulation involving exclusively representatives of the press and representatives of the public, as well as public awareness of the existence of the PCSA's mediation and adjudication services to deal with complaints about journalistic practice;


2.6. To cooperate with other press councils and similar organisations in South Africa and abroad that have the same aims and objectives as the PCSA; and


2.7. To undertake such other tasks as are necessary to further the objectives of the Council.


3. Powers and functions


3.1. The Council shall have the power to consider and decide on any matter arising from this Constitution or the functioning of any office appointed in terms of this Constitution;


3.2. The Council shall perform all such acts and do all such things as are reasonably necessary for or ancillary, incidental or supplementary to the achievement, pursuit, furtherance or promotion of the objects and principles contained in this Constitution, the Press Code, Complaints Procedure or any function considered necessary by the Council; and

3.3. The PCSA may set up a management committee and/or other sub-committees to deal with particular issues, as it sees fit.


4. Composition of Council


4.1. The Council shall consist of a retired judge and 12 individuals representing members of the public and members of the media. The judge shall hold no other position in the Press Council or its appeals mechanism.


4.2. The outgoing PCSA shall request the Chief Justice of South Africa to recommend a judge who is no longer in active service to chair the Press Council.


4.3. Six of the representatives shall be appointed by the Appointments Panel, as set out in 5.1of this constitution, from nominations received from members of the public.


4.4. Six of the representatives shall be from the press and shall be appointed by the constituent associations as follows:


4.4.1. One member by the Newspaper Association of South Africa (NASA);


4.4.2. One member by the Magazine Publishers Association of South Africa (MPASA);


4.4.3. One member by the Association of Independent Publishers (AIP); and


4.4.4. One member by the Forum of Community Journalists (FCJ).


4.4.5. The South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) shall appoint two members, and in the event of a journalists' association being formed, SANEF shall relinquish one seat to the journalists' association.


4.5. In the appointments, the Appointments Panel and the constituent associations should strive to reflect the diversity of the people of South Africa.


4.6. After its appointment, the Council shall elect from among the members of Council a Deputy Chairperson, provided that in the event the deputy in one term is a public representative, the deputy in the following term will be a press representative, and vice versa.


4.7. The members of the Council shall serve for five years, but are eligible to re-apply for the positions at the end of the term. However, to ensure the necessary continuity, three press and three public members shall be appointed for two and a half years for the first term of appointment after this amended Constitution becomes operational. Thereafter, all the terms will revert to overlapping five years. At its first regular meeting, the first Council shall decide who shall serve for two and a half years and who shall serve for five years.


4.8. In the event of a press vacancy occurring, the organisation whose representative has left shall appoint a replacement for the balance of the term.


4.9. In the event of a public vacancy occurring, the Appointments Panel shall appoint a replacement, preferably from the shortlist of candidates previously considered.


4.10. The Director, Press Ombudsman and Public Advocate appointed in terms of 5.1.1. below shall serve ex-officio on the PCSA, without voting rights.


5. Structures and officers of the Council


The PCSA shall establish and maintain the following structures:


5.1. Complaints mechanism


5.1.1. The PCSA shall establish a mechanism to deal with complaints against the press. The mechanism - made up of the Public Advocate, the Press Ombudsman and their deputies, the Panel of Adjudicators and the Chair of Appeals, as enumerated below in this Constitution - offers a non-statutory avenue for the mediation and adjudication of complaints against the press.The offices and structures dealing with complaints shall act independently of the PCSA and the constituent media organisations.


5.1.2. The member publications of the associations listed in paragraph 1.2. above are subject to the Press Code, as amended from time to time by the PCSA,and to the jurisdiction of the PCSA's complaints mechanism.


5.1.3. The jurisdiction of the PCSA extends to the electronic media of member publications.


5.1.4. Where a complaint is made against a newspaper or magazine which is not a member of the associations listed in paragraph 1.2. above, the Public Advocate or Ombudsman shall approach such newspaper or magazine to establish whether it accepts the jurisdiction of the PCSA.


5.1.5. In the event that the newspaper or magazine refuses to submit to the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, the Public Advocate or Ombudsman shall advise the complainant accordingly.


5.2. Appointments Panel


5.2.1. The PCSA shall request the Chief Justice of South Africa to recommend a judge who is no longer in active service to chair the Appointments Panel.


5.2.2. The Appointments Panel shall be responsible for the appointment of public members of the PCSA, the public members of the Panel of Adjudicators, the Ombudsman, the Director, the Public Advocate and any deputies for these officers when necessary.


5.2.3. These appointees:


5.2.3.1. Shall be citizens of and permanently resident in the Republic of South Africa;


5.2.3.2. Shall be committed to the values underpinning the South African Constitution, as well as to the Press Code of the PCSA; and


5.2.3.3. Shall be of high standing and integrity.


5.2.4. The sitting Council shall appoint up to four Council members, preferably consisting of two press and two public representatives, to assist the Chairperson of the Appointments Panel.


5.2.5. All appointments of the public members of the PCSA and the public members of the Panel of Adjudicators shall be made after invitations to the public for nomination have been advertised, a shortlist compiled and interviews conducted with shortlisted candidates.


5.2.6. The Director, the Ombudsman, and the Public Advocate will be appointed by the Panel after the positions have been widely advertised and it has interviewed shortlisted candidates.


5.2.7. The Appointments Panel will dissolve when it has completed its task but will be prepared to reconvene to deal with any vacancies that may arise.


5.2.8. In the event of a vacancy occurring for any reason, the Appointments Panel shall be requested to reconvene to appoint a replacement for the balance of the term, preferably from previously shortlisted candidates.


5.3. The Director


5.3.1. The Director shall lead the PCSA on a full-time, professional basis and will concentrate on public engagement regarding issues of ethical journalism and media freedom.


5.3.2. The Director shall serve a renewable term of five years.


5.4. The Ombudsman


5.4.1. The references to the Ombudsman in this section apply to the Deputy Ombudsman as well when he deputises for the Ombudsman.


5.4.2. The Ombudsman's term of office is five years, which may be renewed.


5.4.3. The Ombudsman shall adjudicate matters that cannot be resolved at the earlier level of mediation.


5.4.4. The Ombudsman may do so on the papers, without hearing evidence.


5.4.5 The Ombudsman may also conduct a hearing, for which the Ombudsman shall convene an Adjudication Panel, in which s/he shall be joined by one press and one public member of the Panel of Adjudicators.


5.4.6. The Ombudsman may also co-opt an assessor without voting rights to assist the Adjudication Panel with technically complex issues.


5.5. Public Advocate


5.5.1 The Public Advocate should ideally have media skills and understand the workings of the South African legal system, and have a finely tuned sense of public service and commitment.


5.5.2 The Public Advocate may serve a renewable term of five years.


5.5.3 The Public Advocate shall assist members of the public to formulate their complaints, attempt to resolve complaints amicably by liaising directly with the publication on behalf of the complainant.


5.5.4. Where the Public Advocate does not succeed in having a complaint settled within 15 working days after the complaint was lodged with a publication,he or she shall refer the unresolved dispute to the Ombudsman for adjudication as per the Complaints Procedures.


5.5.5. The Public Advocate may represent the complainant before the Ombudsman and/or the Appeals Panel.


5.6. The Panel of Adjudicators


5.6.1. The Panel of Adjudicators shall consist of eight public representatives and six press representatives, none of whom shall be members of the Council.


5.6.2. The Appointments Panel shall appoint the eight public members of the Panel of Adjudicators and the constituent associations listed in 1.2 of this constitution shall appoint the press representatives.


5.6.3. Members of the Adjudication Panel who hear a case with the Ombudsman shall be drawn from the Panel of Adjudicators, as set out in paragraph 5.4.5.above.


5.6.4. The members of the Panel of Adjudicators shall serve for five years, but are eligible to re-apply for the positions at the end of the term. However, to ensure the necessary continuity three press and four public members shall be appointed for two and a half years for the first term of appointment after this amended Constitution becomes operational. Thereafter, all the terms will revert to overlapping five years. When the Panel of Adjudicators first convenes, the meeting shall decide who shall serve for two and a half years and who shall serve for five years.


5.7. The Chair of Appeals


5.7.1. The Chair of Appeals shall be a senior legal practitioner, preferably a retired judge, appointed by the Council on the recommendation of the Chief Justice and may be the same judge who chairs the Appointments Panel.


5.7.2. The Chair of Appeals shall deal with appeals against a ruling by the Ombudsman, acting with or without an Adjudication Panel.


5.7.3. Application for leave to appeal must be made to the Chair of Appeals, who may accept the application or refuse it.


5.7.4. The Chair of Appeals may also convene an Appeals Panel, in which the Chair of Appeals shall be joined by one press and up to three public members of the Adjudication Panel. The Chair of Appeals will have discretion on the number of public members to hear an appeal. Decisions of the Appeal Panel shall be by majority vote.


5.7.5. A person employed by a publication which is the subject of the complaint, or with any other vested interest in the matter, may not serve on an Appeals Panel to consider the matter.


5.7.6. The Appeals Panel may consider the matter with or without hearing oral argument or evidence.


5.7.7. The term of appointment of the Chair of Appeals shall be for five years and is part-time. 5.7.8. The Chair of Appeals shall depute a member of the Panel of Adjudicators to act as chairperson when the Chair of Appeals is not available.

5.7.8. The Chair of Appeals shall deputise a member of the Panel of Adjudicators to act as chairperson when the Chair of Appeals is not available.

 

6. Eligibility for membership of Council and of the Panel of Adjudicators


6.1. Members appointed to the Council must be persons who:


6.1.1. Are of high standing and integrity with a strong interest in the press, subscribe fully to the principles of a free press and the Press Code and who shall act in the furtherance of the aims and objectives of the Council; and


6.1.2. Shall be committed to the values underpinning the SA Constitution, as well as to the Press Code of the PCSA.


6.1.3. Press members of the PCSA are required to be working journalists at one of the constituent associations or have wide experience in this field.


6.1.4. The public members of the Council and the Panel of Adjudicators are required to have a keen sense of fairness and balance, and the skills to apply their minds to issues in the press. In addition, they are required to have a keen interest in communications, media and in social and political issues, and be advocates of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, but may not be in the employ of the press.


6.1.5. The press members of the Panel of Adjudicators must have extensive knowledge of the press and its workings and shall be former or current senior journalists.


6.1.6. The following persons may not be appointed to any position on the PCSA or the Panel of Adjudicators:


6.1.6.1. Persons under the age of 21;


6.1.6.2. Any person who is not legally able to manage his or her own affairs;


6.1.6.3. Any person who is disqualified from being or remaining a director in terms of any legislation with respect to the formation and management of companies;


6.1.6.4. Any person who has any financial interest in the media;


6.1.6.5. Any person who occupies a seat in a local, provincial or national legislative body;


6.1.6.6. Any person who is an office-bearer of a political party or movement or is in the employ of the public service;


6.1.6.7. Any person who is an unrehabilitated insolvent; and


6.1.6.8. Any person who was convicted of an offence after April 1994, whether in South Africa or elsewhere, for which such person has been sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine.


7. Cessation of membership


7.1. A person shall cease to occupy an office of the PCSA or the Panel of Adjudicators if:


7.1.1. He or she resigns;


7.1.2. He or she becomes incapable for whatever reason of fulfilling his or her duties, provided that if a dispute arises between the incumbent and the PCSA in this connection, the matter will be resolved by an arbitrator appointed by the Chair of the Johannesburg Bar Council in a manner which he or she deems fair; or


7.1.3. He or she is declared insolvent by a court or is found guilty of an offence listed in Schedule I or II of the Criminal Procedure Act 1977.


7.2. Any member who becomes ineligible to hold the post in terms of the criteria for appointment to the post shall automatically cease to be a member as from the date of such ineligibility.


7.3. The Council may, by a two-thirds majority at a general meeting, suspend or terminate the membership of any member if such a member has brought the good name of the PCSA into disrepute or if such member has omitted to attend two consecutive meetings in a year without good cause acceptable to the Council.


7.4. Such a resolution must be taken by a two-thirds majority of all the members of the Council and may be taken only at a meeting where at least two-thirds of the members are in attendance.


7.5. At least 21 days' prior written notice of such a meeting of the Council must be given to all members of the Council.


8. Finance


8.1. The Council shall establish a Finance and Remuneration Committee to consider all financial issues and the fair and proper remuneration of its staff and the remuneration of public members. The Director of the PCSA shall be a member of this Committee.


8.2. The Finance and Remuneration Committee shall prepare an Annual Budget for submission to the PMSA.


8.3. The PMSA shall cover the reasonable costs of the PCSA.


8.4. If the PCSA and the PMSA cannot reach agreement on the annual budget, it shall be treated as a dispute and dealt with in terms of Section 11 of this Constitution.


8.5. The Chair of Appeals will be remunerated by way of a retainer, a daily hearing fee plus costs.


8.6. Public members of the Council will be remunerated per meeting and their costs for attending meetings will be paid by the PCSA.


8.7. The remuneration for the public members and the Chair of Appeals shall be determined by the PCSA at the beginning of its term and an annual increase of at least the official inflation rate (CPIX) shall also be determined at this stage.


8.8. Where members of the Panel of Adjudicators serve on an Adjudication Panel or an Appeals Panel, their costs and a reasonable daily rate for attendance shall be paid by the PCSA.


9. Meetings


9.1. The Council shall hold as many meetings per year as the Chairperson deems necessary, with a minimum of four meetings per year, or where three members require the Chairperson to hold a meeting on a specific matter, he or she shall do so within 21 days.


9.2. The quorum for a meeting shall be six members and resolutions shall be taken by majority vote except in so far as this Constitution requires otherwise. The Chairperson shall have a casting vote where the votes are equal.


9.3. Meetings of the Council may be held in person or by telephone or video conference or other appropriate electronic communications system or a combination thereof -provided that proper notice of such a meeting was given to all members and a quorum is in attendance.


9.4. Minutes shall be kept of the proceedings of meetings.


9.5. Unless all the members agree otherwise, a Council meeting shall be held within seven days' written notice by the Chairperson.


10. Amendments


10.1. Any amendment to this Constitution, the Code or the Complaints Procedure shall require the approval of two-thirds of the members of the Council voting either personally or in absentia, with the concurrence of the constituent associations.


10.2. No amendment shall be effective unless at least 21 calendar days written notice of a proposed amendment shall have been given to all members.


10.3. Votes submitted in absentia shall be in writing, signed by the relevant member and be recorded for or against the proposed amendment and no further amendments of the proposal may be made at such meeting unless a two-thirds majority of the Council is present at the meeting and votes for such further amendment.


11. Arbitration


11.1. In the event of any dispute within the PCSA or between the PCSA and its founding associations which are not capable of resolution between the parties within a period of two months, the PCSA and the associations shall appoint an arbitrator to resolve the problem and where the parties cannot agree on the arbitrator the Chair of the Johannesburg Bar Council shall be approached to appoint an arbitrator.


11.2. Each association which has appointed a representative in terms of 4.4 of this Constitution shall bear the costs of its representative carrying out the bona fide functions.


11.3. The cost of the arbitrator shall be shared equally by the disputing parties except in the case where the arbitrator decides otherwise.


11.4. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding.


12. Seat of the PCSA


12.1. The seat of the PCSA shall be in Johannesburg and meetings shall be held in Johannesburg unless the management decides otherwise.


13. Dissolution


13.1. A resolution to dissolve the PCSA can only be passed at a special meeting called for this purpose, by a two-thirds majority of the members present, which two-thirds majority shall be not less than a simple majority of the total membership.


13.2. Not less than 21 days' notice shall be given of any such meeting and such notice shall give particulars of the purpose for which the meeting is called.


13.3. In the case of dissolution the assets will be handed back to the constituent associations.