Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism

Legal victory for protection of sources, but press regulation still on the table

A landmark decision was reached to protect sources in Johannesburg court on April 27, 2012. Judge Moroa Tsoka, presiding over the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, denied Bosasa Operation LTD’s request for the identities of sources in a Mail and Guardian article, according to the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA).

Bosasa Operation LTD filed a defamation suit against The Mail & Guardian Newspaper and journalist Adriaan Basson for a May 22, 2009 article, described in the legal judgment document as exposing “a corrupt relationship between the plaintiff [Bosasa] and the Department of Correctional Services.” Namely, the article exposed Bosasa for bribing prison officials in order to secure contracts.

During court proceedings, Bosasa requested that The Mail & Guardian reveal sources for the article citing a rule of the discovery procedure, but the news organization denied the request.

Judge Tsoka ruled that the identity of the sources was “irrelevant.” The judge then commended the sources for coming forward to carry out their civic duty of citizens in a democratic society, according to the Mail & Guardian.

"This essential and critical role of the media, which is more pronounced in our nascent democracy, founded on openness, where corruption has become cancerous, needs to be fostered rather than denuded,” Tsoka said in the article.

Media lawyer Dario Milo shared his reaction with the Mail & Guardian, "This is a ground-breaking judgment for media freedom. The court has recognized [sic] that protection of confidential sources is integral to good investigative journalism." CIMA described the ruling as setting a “legal precedent for journalists not revealing their sources.”

Taking the ANC out of the equation

While press freedom made strides, there is still work being done to reduce journalists’ obstacles. The Press Freedom Commission (PFC) was founded in July 2011 to establish a suitable regulatory system for the South African press.

The commission announced their proposal for "independent co-regulation” in a report released on April 25, 2012. Independent co-regulation means the press and public will participate together in media regulation, without state or government participation.
Press Council of South Africa (PCSA), the ruling body over regulatory system, will draw most of its members from outside of media circles, according to The first chairperson will be elected by members of the press, and the deputy chair is elected by public members.

Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism.
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