Experts say media commission can work if well run


Journalist Myra Labiche of the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation making a presentation during the seminar. With her are University of Mauritius lecturer Christina Chan-Meetoo and Mr Retief (Photo by GT)

The commission – like other very successful ones globally – should be the preferred mediator instead of law courts which take a lot of time and money in legal fees and cut the risk of heavy fees that would be awarded in damages if a publisher lost a court case.

Media experts and lawyers said this during the regional seminar held at Mauritius’ Gold Nest hotel in Quatre Bornes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week.

They said there is no need for more power or “teeth” because simply being the better alternative makes the media voluntarily join and fund the independent commissions and obey the often embarrassing rulings, for example publishing apologies in parts of newspapers specified by the commissions.

For the commission to work however, the media need a code of ethics similar to that of the UK, South Africa or Reunion which were studied at the seminar and deemed exemplary and universal.
Media of the six countries represented follow their codes and are punished in line with the part of the code they have broken by publishing information that is so biased, untruthful, inaccurate or insensitive that it is hurtful to the people it refers to.

The procedure is so simple that using the South African code, even journalists from Seychelles and Mauritius – two countries present and seen to have budding commissions and no codes of ethics – were able to make rulings on items published elsewhere.

The non-Seychellois delegates also looked at a number of cases that have arisen in Seychelles arousing public reaction and gave their verdicts.

They looked for example at the case in which Seychelles Nation published the picture of a person who was found to have drowned.

“That would have been an easy case. The public had a right to know, the picture was in black and white, not on the front page and the deceased was a public figure. The newspaper did not violate the standard code of ethics although it would have been good to publish a warning on the front page that an inside page carried such a picture,” said South African press council ombudsperson Johan Retief.

“The newspapers that published a colour picture on front page of a badly injured person amid claims he had been beaten up by the police did not break common ethic codes if police brutality was feared to have existed,” said the man, who last year heard 300 cases against the media, found 200 justified but rejected 100.

10% of the party’s involved did not agree with his council’s decisions and presented their cases to its appeals board – headed by a retired judge – which overturned 2% of the decisions.

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