Press Council appoints new Press Ombud

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The South African Press Council has appointed renowned journalist and writer Pippa Green as the new Press Ombud.

The appointment comes after Johan Retief, who had been Press Ombud for almost ten years, resigned. Green will commence her term from 1 April.

Green, a former head of the Journalism Program at the University of Pretoria, has worked at the Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth based in based in the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town for the past five years.

The national independent project focuses on investigating poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Green holds an MSc in Journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York City. She is the author of a book titled “Choice, not Fate: The Life and Times of Trevor Manuel (Penguin, 2008).”

Her more recent work includes a series of podcasts called “History for the Future” (2016) for Primedia; based on interviews with former Truth and Reconciliation commissioners, as well as several articles for publications such as Business Day, News24, the Daily Maverick and the New Yorker on some of the key economic challenges facing the country.

She most recently co-authored a paper titled “Taking stock of South African income inequality” with economists Professors Murray Leibbrandt and Vimal Ranchhod for UNU-Wider.

Green is currently an executive member of the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (CASAC). She has also won numerous awards, which include a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University (1999) and the Ferris Visiting Professor of Journalism at Princeton University (2006).

The three retired judges involved with the Press Council have welcomed her appointment. Chairperson of the appointment panel, Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, said that Green’s appointment will maintain the credibility and the authority of the Press Ombud.

“The Panel believes that as a respected media professional, Ms Green’s extensive news media and academic experience, her commitment to freedom of expression, media ethics and journalistic standards as well as her high profile in the industry will maintain the confidence of both the industry and the public in the credibility and authority of the Press Ombud.”

Chairperson of the Council, Judge Phillip Levinsohn, congratulated the appointment panel for their choice. “She is eminently qualified to do this job. It is a great pleasure to welcome her into the Press Council family.”

Judge Levinson also commended Retief for his contribution as Press Ombud. “His expertise, erudition and notably brilliant adjudication and application of the Press Code when confronted with difficult issues will be missed.”

Chairperson of the Council’s Appeals Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, said Green’s vast experience “will inspire even more confidence in the institution and strengthen it even further.”

The Press Council, which has received 533 complaints in 2018, has recently accepted a shorter Press Code. It has broadened the interpretation of what constitutes sexual violence, among others, to include harassment and intimidation. It has also narrowed its understanding of hate speech to SA Constitution’s definition of the term, which addresses the intent to cause harm, incitement of violence, advocacy of hatred and propaganda for war; and excludes the causing of mere hurtful speech.