Media Freedom News South Africa

Subscribe to industry newsletters

Search jobs

Joe Thloloe receives honorary doctorate in law

Joe Thloloe received an honorary doctorate in law on Friday, 9 April 2011, from Rhodes University to acknowledge him as a long-standing anti-apartheid activist who endured much for his involvement in the cause and a public intellectual for whom ethical concerns are uppermost. He is the current South African press ombudsman.
L to R: Joe Thloloe and Thami Mazwai Image courtesy of Guy Berger
L to R: Joe Thloloe and Thami Mazwai Image courtesy of Guy Berger
click to enlarge

He has been described as the "pre-eminent elder statesman of South African journalism" and as "a professional with an unparalleled wealth of courage, compassion and commitment that dates back almost 50 years in the media."

To quote from Prof Paul Maylam's oration: "In these times of intense, often heated debate surrounding such issues as press freedom, media tribunals, freedom of information, government regulation of the media, his stance has been independent, balanced, ethical and judicious. While he has upheld some complaints directed against the press, he has also been critical of the government's efforts to exercise greater control over the media. Furthermore he is a key player in facilitating dialogue among the main protagonists in this debate, bringing together media representatives, politicians, academics and analysts to discuss the issues.

"'Any system imposed from outside the press', he says, 'will violation of the Constitution.' He prefers the self-regulatory mechanism'"which maintains freedom of expression.'

Years of journalism

Continues Maylam: "To his position as press ombudsman, he brings years of experience as a journalist. Starting out as a reporter in the 1960s, working on such papers as the World, Rand Daily Mail, Golden City Post; then writing for Drum magazine in the early 1970s; from 1977 to 1994 taking on writing and editorial responsibilities with the World once more, and later with the Post Transvaal and Sowetan; heading SABC TV news from 1994 to 1997, and taking on the same role with from 2001 to 2005.

"There have been other roles outside the newsroom: the presidency of both the Union of Black Journalists and the Media Workers Association of South Africa; chairing the South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF), a body he helped establish; also sitting on the Human Rights Commission panel investigating racism in the media. Not to forget his ongoing connection with the Rhodes Journalism Department, where he has attended conferences, lectured students and published in the department's journal."

Media freedom

In his graduation speech, Thloloe said, "Our society has been very generous to journalists, artists, academics and scientists. I strongly believe that we hold freedom of the press and other media, freedom of artistic creativity, academic freedom and freedom of scientific research in trust for everyone.

"For me freedom of expression means that decisions about what to publish, for example, rest squarely on the shoulders of the journalists. As soon as that decision is located in an external agency, like a statutory Media Appeals Tribunal, the right guaranteed by the constitution of the country is curtailed. The tribunal would have to prescribe what good journalism is and then punish those who do not live up to that prescription."

Read Thloloe's full graduation speech and the citation for Thloloe by Prof Paul Maylam.

Let's do Biz