Security Censorship in South Africa

 Censorship in the name of national security

10th August

Updated: In the Name of National Security...

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Another South African bill proposes repression of the media

South Africa flagThis week, the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) undertook what has now become a familiar visit to Parliament in a bid to stop yet another cynical attempt to erode press freedom.

The difference this time is that the offending Protection of Information Bill has been roundly condemned by civil society and even government agencies themselves for its insidiousness.

The chorus of condemnation has come from, among others, the Institute for Democracy in SA, the Human Rights Commission, the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, the SA Media and Gender Institute, Eskom, the Open Democracy Advice Centre and Print Media Association.

In its current form, the bill provides definitions of national security and national interest that are so absurdly broad they would severely restrict access to information for just about anybody and any institution; making nonsense of the ideal of open society and transparency.

Sanef siad: We have far too many people in Parliament who do not share our beliefs in constitutional democracy and its imperatives of transparency and openness. Some of them have never shared these values and actually once worked against them.

Yet others who once shared them have since stopped doing so, after betraying the liberation struggle ideals of reconstruction and development. Transparency and press freedom are inimical to their corrupt ways; hence the attempts to curb the free flow of information.

Why, otherwise, the Protection of Information Bill that would result in journalists being jailed for lengthy periods for doing their jobs, and also undermine the ability of parliamentarians themselves, and elected officials, to hold the State accountable?

Update: The Tribunal's Out

10th August 2010. Based on article from

Proposed media regulations in South Africa have raised fears that the government is trying to control news coverage, drawing comparisons to apartheid-era censorship.

The ruling African National Congress is mulling a Media Appeals Tribunal, while parliament is considering the Protection of Information Bill, which media organisations say would hamper investigative reporting.

The media tribunal, first mooted in 2007, would adjudicate complaints on media reports in a bid to make journalists legally accountable, the ANC said.

Media houses are wary of legal penalties, and say the Press Ombudsman already hears complaints and can require newspapers to print prominent apologies or corrections.

Recent reports on government spending on luxury vehicles have irked the government of President Jacob Zuma, who also figured in a long investigation into a multi-billion-dollar arms deal first reported in South African media.

ANC secretary Gwede Mantashe said a media tribunal was required to deal with the so-called dearth of media ethics in South Africa. The party's general council will thrash out the idea at a meeting next month.


19th September

Update: Classified as Repressive...

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South Africans protest against two repressive censorship bills

South Africa flagHundreds of demonstrators have marched in Johannesburg, South Africa, against new measures they fear will muzzle the country's media.

They criticised plans to introduce a protection of information bill and a new media tribunal, to punish journalists who step out of line.

Demonstrators carrying placards condemning press censorship marched to the Constitutional Court to voice their anger against the two proposals.

The protection of information bill would allow the government to classify material that is currently not secret.

The media tribunal, which would be answerable to parliament, would have the power to jail or fine journalists for inaccurate reporting.

Helen Zille, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, said the proposals are worse than apartheid-era measures. Zille - once herself a prominent journalist - has described the tribunal as a tool to mask corruption. She argued it would be worse than the apartheid-era media council, which was headed by a judge.


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