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South Africa Urged to Abandon Proposed Media Laws


A press freedom group is urging South Africa to abandon proposed laws to create a media tribunal and to limit information involving national security.

Reporters Without Borders said Thursday such measures would move South Africa a "dramatic step backwards."

The ruling African National Congress is meeting in Durban this week to consider creating a tribunal that would hear complaints about allegedly inaccurate or unfair reporting. The tribunal would have the power to punish journalists.

The other proposed law, the "Protection of Information Bill," could send journalists to jail for publishing anything the government defines as compromising "national security."

Reporters Without Borders said the laws could make investigative reporting impossible, and could prevent journalists from reporting sensitive stories for fear of being imprisoned.

South Africa President Jacob Zuma has defended the two proposed laws, saying they are needed to protect human rights.

President Zuma has said the media tribunal will "strengthen, complement, and support" existing ways journalists regulate themselves.

Some officials from the African National Congress have criticized South African journalists for allegedly flawed reporting and what the officials call a lack of ethics.

Reporters Without Borders said it hopes South African Mr. Zuma and the government will understand reservations by media and press freedom groups toward the laws.

It said the independence of South Africa's journalists and the country's image are at stake.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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