Online news regulation coming but not for reader comments
The Press Council is making plans to extend its code to news websites.
This follows several changes made by the Press Council to the ethics part of the Press Code, as well as structural adjustments within the council.
This proposed change to extend the press code to online platforms means news websites will be held to the same ethical standards as their print titles.
The proposed changes will not affect readers' comments on news websites.
Head of Publishers of the Digital Media & Marketing Association (DMMA), Timothy Spira, questioned how it would work without any real previous regulation on the Internet.
"This is a new and largely uncharted area in which there is scant legislative guidance or common law precedent in South Africa," he said.
The DMMA encouraged publishers and platform providers to tread carefully, using their judgement in limiting the space for hate speech to the extent that it is in their power to do so, but not at the expense of the kind of open debate that makes the Internet such a valuable and progressive medium.
Press Ombudsman Johan Retief said: "The website issue cropped up when we discussed our mandate that did at that stage not extended to the Internet. 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."
He added that it does not make sense to regulate the press based on texts published on paper only - all publications should take responsibility for what they publish on their websites.