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]