COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE "MEDIA RACISM"
The South African government's investigation of "racism in the media" infringes freedom of the press, says the World Association of Newspapers (WAN). The South African Human Rights Commission, which is to carry out the investigation into racism "in what is produced and disseminated by the media," has the power of search, seizure and arrest. "It goes without saying that our organisation finds racism intolerable and opposes the use of media to encourage it. On the other hand, we find it completely inappropriate for a government commission to set itself up as a judge in these matters or to interfere in any way at all with editorial content," says a letter from WAN President Bengt Braun to President Nelson Mandela. WAN also questioned the timing of the investigation in the run-up to Parliamentary elections.
"We believe that the question of racism should be confronted within the framework of any existing legal provisions which apply to all citizens of society at large," says WAN. "Specific measures applicable only to the media would be an unacceptable infringement of freedom of the press. It is also doubly unfortunate that these measures, centred on such an emotive issue as racism, should be announced in the run-up to the Parliamentary elections."