Online news sites will soon be subject to stricter regulations as the South African Press Council plans to extend its code, holding online media accountable to the same standards as printed media.
“The website issue cropped up when we discussed our mandate that did at that stage not extended to the Internet,” said Press Ombudsman Johan Retief.
“We felt that it would make our system more credible and efficient if we broaden our mandate to online material from publications that ascribe to the Press Code and therefore are part of the system of regulation.”
Altering of the ethical section of the South African Press Code and restructuring of the council has been made already.
Reader commentary will not be taken into account for site regulations.
Retief explained all publications are responsible for the material they publish, not only on paper.
“This is a new and largely uncharted area in which there is scant legislative guidance or common law precedent in South Africa,” Timothy Spira, Head of Publishers of the Digital Media & Marketing Association (DMMA), told TimesLIVE.
Spira questioned the control, mentioning that this is a first for the country with regards to Internet censorship.
The DMMA urged publishers and platform providers to take special care to avoid inclinations towards hate speech, while not suffocating the opportunities for open debate “that makes the Internet such a valuable and progressive medium”.