freedom of expression

freedom of expression

  • The Media Must Remain Self-Regulatory

    The South African chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-SA) is deeply concerned with the host of legislative and policy proposals under discussion. The Broadcasting Bill, Protection of Information Bill and Media Appeals Tribunal are significantly threatening media freedom in South Africa. The proposed legislation and policy seeks to oversee and control how the media must be regulated. 

    The broadcasting bill raised up a number of issues of concern around editorial, HR independence and giving more powers to the minister of communications. The Protection of Information Bill branded as “secrecy bill” has completely ousted the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000. The media appeals tribunal will foresee journalists are held accountable. 

    A recalling arrest of Mzilikazi wa Africa, Sunday Times journalist recently has put disbelieve in facts put down by police and ruling party ANC that the media is over-reacting on legislation brought forward. Wa Africa’s arrest was politically motivated, admittedly said by the investigative officer responsible on the case. 

    MISA-SA is of the view that police were aware of the meeting that was held at the Sunday Times offices on 4 August 2010, where wa Africa was arrested. Reporters and editors had just finished a meeting discussing the media tribunal and other related issues seen as a threat to media freedom witnessed the arrest.

    MISA-SA condemns the manner in which police conducted themselves during his arrest and denying media coverage. It is truly in violation of the freedom of the media and the public’s right to know as enshrined in the constitution.

    This damning behaviour by the police raises a number of questions around the real motive of the proposed legislation and policy. Also, believing that the media must remain self-regulatory. 

    Since the proposed legislation has been brought forward journalists are living in fear of their lives.  A City Press journalist Sizwe SamaYende is under 24 hour protection after narrowly evading a gunman who ambushed him at his home on 6 August 2010 [Friday night]. SamaYende and Mzilikazi are added on a list of journalists who write critically about Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza.

    The “secrecy bill” is yet to be enacted but already journalists are being violated. Editors had to meet with the government to resolve these burning issues. ANC has claimed that majority of citizens are in support of the media tribunal, “majority of South Africans who have commented on this proposal supports the idea,” party said. However, the ruling party appears to want to discredit any criticism of the plan. Jackson Mthembu party spokesman facts are based on individuals who visit the party website, who could also make biased comments. Noting that most recent three newspapers had to print retractions ruled by the press ombudsman. These retractions are based on poor journalism and nothing else.

    What is peculiar is that a number of opposition parties oppose proposed legislation including the Democratic Alliance (DA). The DA has warned that the bills will centralize powers in ANC and has – in waiting scheduled a meeting with the president in a bit to convince him to withdraw the “secrecy bill.

    MISA-SA sees the bills as unconstitutional and there should be no media appeals tribunal. We strongly condemn the ANC for considering taking the bill into law without thorough consultations. MISA-SA urges like-minded organizations and the ANC to call on round-table discussion that will include the above and allow proper conduct of setting up legislation occur. 

    Also, we take note of Jeremy Cronin, deputy secretary-general of South African Communist Party and Floyd Shivambu, African National Congress Youth League spokesman, giving more unsatisfactory justification for such body [MAT]

    END

    Issued by:
    Faiza Abrahams Smith
    MISA-SA: National Director
    Tell: +27 11 339 6767
    Fax: +27 11 339 9888
    Email: director@misa-sa.org.za
    Website: www.misa-sa.org.za
    Date published: 
    13/08/2010
    Organisation: 
    Media Institute of Southern Africa - South Africa
  • Defend and Advance the Freedom of Expression for All!

    Defend and Advance the Freedom of Expression for All!

    AIDC Statement on the threats to Press Freedom

    Press Freedom is a right enjoyed by a privileged minority of South Africans. Our print media is controlled by a cartel of four corporations. Broadcast Media is dominated by the SABC. The profiteering of private media and commercialization of the SABC have seen the mass media catering to the expression and information needs of lucrative markets (LSM 8- 10) representing under 15% of South Africans.

    Rather than striving to extend the freedoms of expression and access to information to all South Africans, the ANC government is perusing a series of reforms that will further curtail these freedoms:  
    • The Protection of Information Bill allows every organ of state - from government departments and parastatals to the smallest municipality - to throw a blanket of secrecy over its documents. If the law is passed whistle blowers leaking, and journalists reporting, on these documents can face up to 25 years in jail;
    • The ICASA Amendment Bill gives the Minster of Communications powers to determine the functions of individual ICASA councilors and to conduct performance appraisals of councilors;
    • The Public Service Broadcasting Bill narrows the social mandate of community and public broadcasters to serve the "developmental goals of the Republic" and extends the powers of the Minister of Communications over the SABC and municipal officials over community radio;
    • The proposed Media Appeals Tribunal will introduce formal censorship to print media limiting the role of the media in ensuring transparent and accountable government.
    The economic crisis and the rise of conservative authoritarianism

    These threats to the media freedom signal the growing influence of conservative authoritarianism in our body politic. We have witnessed various expressions of this including the attempts by some traditional leaders, through the House of Traditional Leaders, to revive the apartheid era social, political and economic control of the country-side through the post-apartheid legislation that is ironically built on the tribal authorities, tribal boundaries and other undemocratic foundations of the hated Black Authorities Act of 1951; the ongoing violence against women, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs’ efforts to censor the internet, rising xenophobia, the use of state violence against community protests, the City of Cape Town turning on a corruption whistle-blower by freezing his salary, and the ‘Scorpions’ style arrest of Sunday Times journalist, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, designed to intimidate the media.

    The rise of conservative authoritarianism can best be understood against the backdrop of South Africa’s deepening economic crisis. South Africa is the most unequal society in the world (the richest 10% of South Africans take home 54.4% of all household income while the poorest 50% share only 8.3% of household income). In the past year we have lost over 1 000 000 jobs. In the past six months 232,000 people lost their jobs. It is conservatively estimated that every worker supports 5 dependants, so it is safe to say that more than a million South Africans have lost their primary source of income this year alone.

    The majority of South Africans are understandably worried and look to their leaders and the media for explanation and direction. Rather than addressing the causes of the crisis and debating alternative economic polices, political leaders and the commercialized media fall back on populism/sensationalism intended to distract and entertain rather than facilitate a meaningful public discussion on the future of our country. Both political leaders and the media offer scapegoats. The commercial media gives us ‘corrupt politicians’ and ‘greedy trade unions’ while political leaders add the ‘unpatriotic media’ to the list.

    The tendency towards greater conservative authoritarianism must also be understood in the context of the battle between various factions and groups fighting for influence in the ruling party and the state. Many of these groups see the state as an avenue for the primitive accumulation of wealth while few have a more pro-poor agenda. The ‘alliance of the wounded’ cobbled together pre-Polokwane, is weakening, and its fissures rupturing. The mass media has become a battle ground for these groups as regular leaks expose the kleptomaniacal tendencies of aspirant comprador capitalists.

    Sections of the ANC and SACP leadership, unable to maintain organizational discipline, have turned on the media with proposals to censor and punish reporting on corruption.  The vast majority of reports focusing on the personal and business lives of public figures are undoubtedly in the public interest. It is disappointing that so few of these reports are given the appropriate attention on the public broadcaster.

    On Media Monopolies, Diversity, and 16 years of Neo-liberalism

    South Africa’s democracy requires a diverse media that facilitates free expression and the access to information in the interests of the working class and the poor. Instead, ‘media freedom’ in South Africa amounts to a print media controlled by four big companies (one Irish owned), a public broadcaster controlled by competing political elites, and a array of community and small commercial media projects with little hope of meaningful sustainability.

    The ANC, despite various progressive conference resolutions, have failed to diversify the South African media. Sixteen years of neo-liberal ANC government policies have resulted in the consolidation of private media monopolies and the commercialization of public and community broadcasting.

    The policy emphasis on market profitability has ensured that all media (commercial, public, community) orientate their editorial and programming to meeting the needs and addressing the anxieties of a tiny (largely urban and wealthy) section of the population. This competition for a limited audience has driven a uniformity of content where media strive not to offend but to affirm the prejudices of South Africa’s urban and rural elite.

    Government under funding of the SABC and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) coupled with tax, trade and competition policy have restricted media diversity and promoted the greater concentration of commercial media ownership as companies position themselves to expand into Africa – challenging the diversity of media elsewhere.

    Sixteen years of neo-liberalism have also impacted newsrooms across our media. The drive to generate income and maximize profit has seen the cutting of editorial budgets resulting in fewer less experienced media workers with greater workloads. This undermines the capacity of the media workers to undertake investigative reporting and makes them increasingly reliant on press statements and sources provided by South  African’s expansive corporate and government public relations industry. The consolidation and profiteering of media monopolies (commercial and public) has also meant that syndication plays a greater role in media production. South Africans can read tens of newspapers or listen to many radio stations only to receive the same version of a story produced by a news agency or centralized SABC newsroom.

    In as far as they under fund our country’s newsrooms, media owners also pose a threat to our freedom of expression and access to information.

    Call to Defend & Advance the Freedom of Expression for All!

    The right of free expression and the right to dignity are indivisible. The right of free expression and access to information are enabling rights at the foundation of our democracy. The ‘people shall not govern’ if they have are not informed and cannot express their views. There can be no meaningful development or service delivery responsive to the needs of the people without the freedom of expression and information.

    AIDC calls on the ANC and the ANC government to:

    1. Implement the Polokwane resolutions calling for greater funding for the SABC and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) to ensure that public and community media can serve the public interest free of commercial pressures. This should include a Media Diversity Tax on commercial media;
    2. Remove the censorious Protection of Information Bill from Parliament before it is challenged in the Constitutional Court.
    3. Redraft the ICASA Amendment and the Public Service Broadcasting Bill ensuring the Minister of Communications and municipalities to not exercise undue control over community and public broadcasting;
    4. Abandon the proposed legislated Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) and work with the commercial media to ensure that the Press Ombudsman and BCCSA have the necessary resources and credibility to perform their prescribed role with speed and greater balance. They should also have powers to fine media houses they find have intentionally violate their Codes of Ethics;
    5. Pursue anti-trust legislation to break up the monopoly ownership of commercial media;
    6. Take disciplinary action against members and officials accused of bribing or threatening journalists.

    We call on all South Africans – trade unions and social movements in particular – to intensify the struggle to defend and advance the freedom of expression and access to information for all South Africans. Media Freedom is in everyone’s interests. An informed and active majority is the ultimate insurance against authoritarianism and the abuse of power.

    The majority of South Africans, poorly served by the current private and public media monopolies, must unite to forge a media democracy movement with the strength to defend the freedom of expression and demand a diversified media that sees the flourishing of alternative and democratic community controlled print and broadcast media.

    ### ENDS ###

    Issued by the Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC). AIDC is a social justice NGO that produces alternative knowledge and works to build institutional capacity of community media projects and the communication capacity of progressive civil society.

    Contact Mark Weinberg on 0214472525, email mark@aidc.org.za , or visit www.aidc.org.za.

    Read AIDC’s Amandla! magazine (www.amandla.org.za)
    Date published: 
    13/08/2010
    Organisation: 
    Alternative Information Development Centre
  • Campaign Against Proposed Media Laws

    South African journalists have launched a campaign to fight what they say is an attempt to curtail media freedoms in a nation known for one of Africa's freest and most open Constitutions.

    In a declaration published in all main Sunday newspapers, the South African National Editors' Forum says media restrictions proposed by the African National Congress threaten free expression that is the ‘lifeblood’ of the country's democracy since the end of apartheid-era rule in 1994.

    The statement, signed by 36 of the country's prominent editors, calls for restrictions posed by the proposed Protection of Information laws and the Media Appeals Tribunal to be abandoned immediately.

    To read the article titled, “SA journalists fight proposed media laws,” click here.
    Source: 
    Mail&Guardian
  • Social Justice Organisations Denounce the Arrest of Sunday Times Journalist, Mzilikazi wa Afrika

    Press Release

    6 August 2010


    A free press is essential to democracy, transparency and the attainment of equality

    We are organisations that campaign for social justice. The success of our work is dependent on respect for the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. The right to free expression and freedom of the press and other media are essential components of democracy. That is why they are contained in the Bill of Rights. They are one of the essential means by which all people in South Africa, especially the vulnerable, exploited and poor, can hold government and the powerful private business sector to account.

    This week Mzilikazi wa Afrika, a Sunday Times journalist, was arrested in Rosebank Johannesburg. The circumstances, manner and cause of his arrest all seem to point to intimidation by the state and attempts to suppress freedom of expression.

    The arrest follows the exposure by the Sunday Times of questionable dealings by the National Police Commissioner, Bheki Cele. It comes during a national debate over proposed legislation to curtail press freedom, i.e. proposals for a new Protection of Information Act, changes to the Criminal Procedure Act and the ANC's proposals to establish a media tribunal.
    We therefore unequivocally condemn the arrest of wa Afrika.

    The media in South Africa, as anywhere else in the world, is very powerful and influential. We are not blind to its many shortcomings. The quality of journalism in South Africa is often mediocre. Newspapers, magazines and television sometimes make serious errors, permit unethical advertising and sometimes make false charges against individuals.

    We are concerned that the main media houses are overly concentrated in the hands of a few large corporations and consequently primarily represent the interests of a relatively small affluent portion of the population, thereby paying insufficient attention to the interests of poor and working class people.

    There is undoubtedly a need for a better, more equal and more socially responsible media. There is a need for an informed public debate about the media, which the media should listen to. There is a need to democratise the media. There is a need for civil society oversight of the SABC to ensure that it is truly a public and politically independent broadcaster. There is a need to re-examine the institutions that are meant to govern the media and protect people from it abusing its power. There is a need to strengthen and enforce media ethics and to examine how this can be done.

    But having said all this we restate that the non-negotiable starting point for this discussion is agreement that a free press plays a critical role in holding government, the private sector and their media competitors to account. Draconian anti-media legislation will make this impossible.

    Over recent years there have been many occasions when serious media investigation and publication has helped to root out corruption and, expose wrongdoing and unethical conduct. This is vital to the reconstruction of SA. Thus the exposure and ultimate conviction of corrupt former Police Commissioner, Jackie Selebi, was a direct result of investigative work by the Mail & Guardian and others. Thabo Mbeki's deadly AIDS denialism was justifiably the source of media condemnation. The media's role in highlighting campaigns for social justice is also critical, for example the shortage of school libraries, the rollout of an unsafe circumcision device in Kwazulu-Natal, the failure to provide private toilets in parts of Khayelitsha, the harassment faced by sex workers and hate crimes against foreigners, women and gays and lesbians.

    Unfortunately, we believe the crackdown on the media being encouraged by parts of government, some in the ANC and probably influential ‘tenderpreneurs’ and predatory elites is not aimed at improving the quality and responsibility of the media, or making it more equal. Instead it is aimed at hiding corruption, frustrating accountability and covering up service delivery failure. These are problems that now permeate every level of government; at national level, in all nine provinces and in most districts.

    The Constitution was won by the sweat and blood of people who opposed and defeated apartheid censorship and repression. A brave, even if unfree, media played a part in this. We therefore wish to issue a warning to the Cabinet and all those groups and individuals that we will campaign against all attempts to undermine press freedom and the Constitution. We are committed to equality, social justice and honest government. We will defend the Bill of Rights. We will not be intimidated and we will not stand by and let the erosion of our fundamental freedoms happen.

    Released by (in alphabetical order): Abahlali baseMjondolo, AIDC, Anti Privatisation Forum, Equal Education, Landless People's Movement, Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP), Rural Network, Social Justice Coalition, SECTION27, Students for Law and Social Justice, SWEAT, Treatment Action Campaign, Unemployed People's Movement, Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign.

    --
    Uyishayile!

    Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with with Landless People's Movement (Gauteng), the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, is part of the Poor People's Alliance - a national network of democratic membership based poor people's movements.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Abahlali baseMjondolo http://www.abahlali.org

    Khayelitsha Struggles http://www.khayelitshastruggles.com/

    Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign http://antieviction.org.za/

    To contact Abahlali baseMjondolo in Durban please email abahlalibasemjonfolo [at] telkom.sa.net or phone 031 - 304 6420

    To contact Abahlali baseMjondolo in Cape Town please email abmwesterncape [at] abahlali.org or phone Mzonke Poni on 073 246 2036

    To contact the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, also in Cape Town, email aec [at] antieviction.org.za or phone Ashraf Cassiem at 076 186 1408.

    To contact the Landless People's Movement in Gauteng email Bongani Xezwi at bongani.xezwi [at] gmail.com or phone Maureen Mnisi on 082 337 4514.

    To contact the Rural Network in KwaZulu-Natal contact email ruralnetwork.kzn[ at] gmail.com or phone Reverend Mavuso on 072 279 2634.

    AbM Facebook Group:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=wall&gid=19659923423

    AEC Facebook Group:http://www.facebook.com/pages/Western-Cape-Anti-Eviction-Campaign-AEC/8432492420

    Abahlali baseMjondolo Solidarity Campaign Network UK
    http://abmsolidaritygroup.blogspot.com/

    Abahlali baseMjondolo Solidarity Group Namibia http://respectnamibia.ning.com/groups/group/show?id=3153753%3AGroup%3A60...

    Solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo in Italy http://clandestino.carta.org/category/mondiali

    Solidarity with the Poor People's Alliance in Germany http://akkrise.wordpress.com/sudafrika/

    Dear Mandela
    http://www.dearmandela.com/

    Land & Freedom!
    Date published: 
    06/08/2010
    Organisation: 
    Social Justice Organisations
  • Recent Developments in the South African Media Landscape

    Press Release

    6 August 2010


    The FXI views recent developments in the media environment as cause for considerable concern.

    Amidst renewed calls for a media appeals tribunal by the ruling African  National Congress (ANC) and its alliance partner the South African Communist Party (SACP), various incidents over the recent past have exacerbated fears about attempts by the state to gain greater control over the media. At the other end of the spectrum, concerns have been voiced about journalistic professionalism and inept attempts to control media workers from within media organisations. All this comes at a time when several pieces of legislation currently under consideration by the state could seriously limit freedom of expression and particularly, freedom of the media.  The most draconian of these is potentially the Protection of Information Bill currently before parliament, on which the FXI has made submissions, and which was analysed in a separate press release.

    The day after his story exposing alleged irregularities in tender proceedings within the police service was published, Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika was arrested at his workplace by a large contingent of policemen.  Combined with the insistence by members of government that the Protection of Information Bill should be passed despite its sweeping ambit and its potential to severely limit the scope of investigative journalism, wa Afrika’s arrest has widely been interpreted as a threat to media freedom and a harbinger of future attempts to limit the press. Wa Afrika has since been released on bail. 

    Secondly, the ANC has published a discussion document on “Media Transformation, Ownership and Diversity”, in which calls for a media appeals tribunal are re-iterated. The SACP’s General Secretary, Blade Nzimande, has also called for a “a media tribunal that will hold journalists accountable” and for punitive measures against journalists who publish false reports.

    The Times newspaper, under the headline “Jail Journalists- Nzimande”, misrepresented Nzimande’s statement, and subsequently issued a weak retraction. By contrast, in the same week, the Business Day newspaper prominently featured a front-page apology to a cabinet minister for publishing a story from a single uncorroborated source.

    Several of the criticisms regarding monopolies on media ownership and the need to ensure that media practitioners adhere to a code of ethics are valid ones. Media practitioners are not above the law and must operate within the parameters of responsibility and accountability, acknowledging mistakes with dignity and grace when these occur.  They must also be able to function without fear of political intimidation or punishment when what they report is not flattering to those in power.

    The FXI does not believe that the proposed legislation currently being considered presents appropriate solutions to the problems noted here. Nor is a state-controlled media appeals tribunal the answer. Instead, such measures will create new problems that could further impact the right of the South African public to access a diverse range of independent media who can operate without fear, favour or prejudice. 

    Rather, criticisms of the current Press Ombud’s Office need to be constructively addressed in order to strengthen the Ombud and enable it to be more proactive.  An analysis of best practice in countries that enjoy a vibrant and diverse media environment might be useful in this regard.

    Various high-ranking members of government have attempted to reassure practitioners that the proposed legislation and other measures are not intended to limit free expression and independent media. While this may be so, governments and domestic polity change, but laws often endure through various administrations. Legislation such as the Protection of Information Bill, which would confer extremely wide-ranging powers to classify information on the pretext of ‘national interest’, could potentially be used by a more conservative future administration for repressive purposes.  In the southern African region alone, there are sobering examples that highlight the manipulation of existing laws by regimes seeking to limit free expression and independent media.  South Africans need to be vigilant to ensure that no law enters the statute books that could, at some point, be used to suppress the hard-won freedoms that comprise our Bill of Rights. 

    Finally, Avusa Media has suspended journalist Mawande Jack, president of the Mandela Bay Media Association, reportedly for recruiting co-workers into the Communications Workers Union (CWU), and distributing union materials to co-workers.  Reports indicate that this is not the first time Avusa in the Eastern Cape has moved to limit the rights of its employees to join unions and participate in their activities. A picket protest was organised outside Avusa’s Port Elizabeth offices in solidarity with Mr Jack on Thursday and Friday. Given the fears of state-driven limitations on freedom of expression noted above, it is ironic that a major media house is seemingly intent on limiting the rights of its own employees.  The FXI urges all media organs to uphold the constitutional rights of employees, including the rights to freedom of association and to freely access and impart information. 

    The FXI is committed to protecting and advancing the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in the South African constitution, together with the associated rights to access and impart information, and to freedom of the media.

    Enquiries: Ayesha Kajee, Executive Director, Freedom of Expression Institute
    Email: Ayesha@fxi.org.za
    Phone: 083 500 74 86
    Date published: 
    06/08/2010
    Organisation: 
    Freedom of Expression Institute
  • MMA Calls for Evidence Based Reasoning in Debate About Media Appeals Tribunal

    Press Release

    9 August 2010

    Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is deeply concerned about the disproportionate and unbalanced accusations about the print media and its journalists made by the ANC in its discussion document: 2010 - Media Transformation, ownership and diversity.

    MMA acknowledges that there are key issues facing the print media:
    • Concentration of ownership vs. the need for diversity of ownership
    • Commercial imperatives and sensationalism at the expense of the public interest
    • The need to strengthen the current self-regulatory system
    • Equality and accessibility
    • Media freedom accompanied by responsible and ethical reporting
    The ANC discussion document presents no evidence in support its call for a Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT). Instead it opts for assertion and rhetoric.

    The document unambiguously accuses the media of irresponsible and unfair reporting. However it could be accused of doing the very thing that it condemns, making unsubstantiated accusations:
    • It suggests that Parliament would appoint those sitting on a MAT: “this will guarantee independence, transparency, accountability and fairness” (point 106). This argument is flawed as Parliament is currently dominated by the ANC and as such, is naturally weighted in favour of this party and its policies.
    • The document asserts that the Press Ombudsman is not independent as he is a former journalist. It suggests he therefore demonstrates bias towards the media (point 98). However it provides no proof to back up this assertion, such as past rulings by the Press Ombudsman that would point to an inherent bias.
    • The ANC claims that citizens have complained to it that they have been victims of unfair and unsatisfactory decisions by the system currently in place (point 88). Again there are no statistics or other evidence provided to support this claim.
    • According to this document a “…cursory scan on the print media reveals an astonishing degree of dishonesty, lack of professional integrity and lack of independence. Editorials distancing the paper from these acts and apologies which are never given due prominence and mostly which has to be forced through the press ombudsman are not sufficient in dealing with this ill” (point 58). That the ANC concedes that this serious allegation is based on a “cursory glance” is simply unacceptable. It is MMA’s experience, after 17 years monitoring the media, that while violations occur, for the most part these allegations are simply untrue. However to ensure that we have a clear picture of media behaviour MMA is about to begin a monitoring project that will give us concrete evidence about media performance, identifying failures as well as strengths, which ought to form the basis of future change.
    In seeking to debate a MAT we must adopt a holistic approach and carefully balance all arguments. Such a debate cannot continue on the basis of fear mongering and political threats.

    The document says: “As South Africans we know the full meaning of unregulated power and unbridled capitalism of the barons experienced by other societies through time” (point 59 and 60). However this is one side of the argument. We also know only too well the dangers of the over-regulation of print media.

    Commercial imperatives and sensationalism must not be at the expense of the public interest and a diversity of views. However this concept must not be used as a means to condone undue control of the media. Self regulation needs to be strengthened rather than South Africa adopting a course of action that will, inadvertently or otherwise, muzzle the media. There must be a clear distinction between the media’s democratic role of being a watchdog of those in power and on the other hand irresponsible and unethical reporting.

    Of course the media could do better. MMA supports efforts to improve and encourage greater public ownership of the press code, to ensure that the public is empowered to access an effective and transparent complaints procedure and that justice is done and is seen to be done.

    A popular legal adage says “hard cases make bad law”. We need to make sure that a minority of instances of questionable, sensational or dubious reporting does not lead us to adopt a course of action that future generations will regret. Media is essential to the development and deepening of democracy, and a media with faults is better than a media muzzled.

    For further comment please contact:
    • William Bird +27 (0)82 887 1370
    • Prinola Govendin +27 (0)72 708 1320
    Contact William Bird
    Director & Ashoka Fellow
    Media Monitoring Africa
    Formerly:
    Media Monitoring Project

    Mb: +2782 887 1370
    Tel: +2711 788 1278
    Fax: +2711 788 1289
    www.mediamonitoringafrica.org

    PO Box 1560
    Parklands 2121, Johannesburg
    South Africa
    Date published: 
    09/08/2010
    Organisation: 
    Media Monitoring Africa
  • Information Bill: Threat to Media Freedom?

    Government is under criticism from civil society organisations (CSOs), the media and opposition parties over the Protection of Information Bill.

    The Bill, meant to replace an apartheid-era law dating from 1982, includes some problematic (potentially unconstitutional) elements that limit the media’s right to information and could see investigative journalists face up to 25 years in jail for publishing information of ‘public interest’.

    Many described the Bill as the biggest threat yet to freedom of information and the work of journalists. The other fear is that the Bill will encourage the publishing of press releases by the state and discourage investigative journalism. While some organisations feel that the Bill is unconstitutional and should be withdrawn, others are of the view that it should be redrafted to promote media freedom.

    The following organisations have commented on the Bill:
    In addition, a number of Western Cape organisations will be meeting on 10 August 2010 (16h00) at the ISS office in Woodstock to discuss a possible campaign on the issue of transparency and access to information. For more information, contact Mark Weinberg at AIDC.

    If you would like to share your views and comments regarding the Protection of Information Bill with NGO Pulse readers, please forward your comments and contributions to editor@sangonet.org.za.

    SANGONeT will highlight the feedback on the NGO Pulse portal and in the weekly NGO Pulse e-newsletter.
  • Press Tribunal a Blow to Media Freedom – Louw

    The Press Council of South Africa takes issue with a call by the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) for a statutory media appeals tribunal.

    In a press statement, the Council’s chairperson, Raymond Louw, points out that imposing of such a tribunal on the press has nothing to do with promoting press freedom but everything to do with the way the press reports on the conduct of governance, including the conduct of Cabinet ministers and other senior officials of the ANC.

    Louw argues that the ANC and the SACP do not want the public to be told of their poor governance, corruption by ‘tenderpreneurs’ and lavish life-styles, but want the press to report the ANC’s version of what is happening.

    To read the article titled, “Press Council warns against media tribunal,” click here.
    Source: 
    Mail&Guardian
  • NGO Calls for Withdrawal of Information Bill

    The South African chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA - SA) has added its voice to those calling for the withdrawal of the Protection of Information Bill.

    MISA – SA says it is deeply concerned about a number of provisions in the Bill which provides for penalties that could ensnare journalists and subject them to jail terms.

    The organisation calls for the withdrawal of the Bill and its framing, after proper consultation with stakeholders such as the media, more narrowly so that the maximum amount of information is still available to the public.

    To read the article titled, “MISA call: Withdraw info bill,” click here.

    Source: 
    The Citizen
  • Information Bill Unconstitutional – Lawmakers

    Lawmakers have warned again that the Protection of Information Bill will not survive Constitutional Court scrutiny because it rides roughshod over media freedom and the democratic values of transparency and accountability.

    Dario Milo, a partner at Webber Wentzel law firm making a representation on behalf of Print Media South Africa, points out that, "The ones (clauses) I have highlighted are clearly unconstitutional and the Constitutional Court would strike them down."

    Addressing the ad hoc parliamentary committee on the Bill, Milo noted that that the Bill, meant to replace an apartheid-era law dating from 1982, could see investigative journalists face up to 25 years in jail for publishing information of public interest.

    To read the article titled, “Information Bill unconstitutional – lawyer,” click here.
    Source: 
    Independent Online
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