The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), a voluntary forum of senior journalists, editors and journalism educators, has used to Twitter to respond to the comments made by the SABC’s COO Hluadi Motsoeneng.

And oh, is that ever a stroke of (possibly unintended) genius.

Motsoeneng’s comments were made during a Johannesburg Radio Days media briefing at Wits University yesterday, where the COO said that journalists should have a licences to practice in South Africa, much like what lawyers and doctors do.

“You know when you are a journalist, you are a professional journalist. If you don’t have ethics and principles and you mislead on your reporting, like lawyers … if you commit any mistake they take your licence. We should do the same thing with journalists, that is what we need to do if we want to build South Africa,” Motsoeneng said.

Many have interpreted Motsoeneng’s call as an attempt to deflect criticism of his own performance, and criticisms of SABC from outside the organisation.

It’s somehow appropriate that the SANEF used Twitter to make the statements – after all, if journalism licences were to be issued, would everyone who posts an update to social media need one in this day and age of citizen reporting, where anyone can be a trusted source of information if you want them to be?

Would, for example, Pig Spotter need a journalist’s licence for reporting on police speed enforcement actions, or “the most loved driver in Africa” Taxi Driver Sipho? Would news bloggers be covered under the proposed issue, and what about the vastly different journalistic genres, such as technology, conservation, hard news and entertainment?

As disturbing as the comments by Motsoeneng might be, this isn’t the first time that the issue has been raised. In 2012 then-Mail & Guardian (M&G) editorial board member Malegapuru Makgoba raised some serious eyebrows during the International Association for Media and Communication Research conference by suggesting the same thing that Motsoeneng has been promoting. He was making the comments as vice-chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Censorship of the media and the crackdown of “undesirable” comments made by journalists is sadly an almost daily occurrence in Africa.  Ethiopia jailed nine journalists in April for alledgely “working with foreign human rights organizations and using social media to create instability in the country.” Even though they have been detailed, they have not been charged with a crime.

“With the latest arrests, Ethiopian authorities are turning the peaceful exercise of free expression into a crime,” said Committee to Protect Journalists East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes.

A number of Wikipedia editors have also been arrested in the east African country. The Ethiopian Wikipedia affiliate sought out a number of bloggers to serve as Wikipedia editors, but as soon as the government learnt of their involvement, they were promptly arrested.

The issue was also raised in the UK in 2011 by the Labour Party’s shadow culture secretary, Ivan Lewis. At the annual Labour Party conference he proposed a “system of independent regulation including proper like-for-like redress which means mistakes and falsehoods on the front page receive apologies and retraction on the front page”.