THE South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has welcomed the African National Congress's (ANC's) decision not to press ahead with a media tribunal, as it now becomes clear that the party's push for reform in the media will not see direct government involvement in accountability mechanisms.

Sanef chairman Mondli Makhanya said yesterday the forum had welcomed that the ANC was no longer "wedded" to the idea of statutory regulation, opting instead to endorse the Press Freedom Commission's recommendations on press regulation outlined in a report released in April.

Delegates to the ANC's policy conference last week discussed a draft communications policy document, which includes a proposal for the establishment of an independent media appeals tribunal to regulate print publications.

Policy subcommittee chairwoman Jessie Duarte said last week the ANC had resolved that it was "largely satisfied" with the work of the Press Freedom Commission, which "has gone a long way towards addressing the issues".

Parliament would now continue its investigation into the issue next month, said Ms Duarte.

The Press Freedom Commission report had recommended greater public involvement in an independent co-regulatory system that involved public and press participation, with predominant public membership but no state or government participation.

In 2007 the ANC electoral conference in Polokwane had resolved to investigate the desirability of a media appeals tribunal that could "strengthen, complement and support" current self-regulatory institutions in the public interest.

The ANC had resolved that consideration should be given to the desirability of the tribunal being statutory, and being made accountable to Parliament.

The ANC had then further resolved at its national general council meeting in 2010 that the existing self-regulatory system was "ineffective and needs to be strengthened", although the party had called for an additional regulatory mechanism "free from political and commercial interests".

Mr Makhanya said there was finally clarity on the issue, after the party "had muddied the waters" with talk of a tribunal, and "created bad blood" between the press and the government.

The need to "go into a war" with the ANC over the issue of press freedom and freedom of expression, had been therefore been unnecessary, he said.

With Sapa