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Defend the freedom of expression

Posted by: barrmar


A new Media Tribunal has been proposed by the ANC as a means of controlling the press. While the proponents of this tribunal claim that the intentions in no way conflict with the ideals of press freedom, such measures always do carry a huge risk. 

We should all feel threatened by this proposal. Everyone that is involved in ideas, news, political criticism. Everyone that is involved in the media whether digital or print, whether a blog or a report. Censorship is a threat to all. 

The media has been critical of the ANC. This is entirely in line with a free press. A critical press is one that is effective. It is one that enabled the New York Times to uncover the Watergate scandal. 

Sometimes a free press can be criticised for becoming too conservative. This criticism has been leveled against much of the US media - since 9/11 there has been a swing towards conservatism and adapting a less critical stance. Self censorship has been imposed. 

The first step in the move away from democracy to dictatorship is often signaled by restrictions on the media. A successful government has no reason to harness the press. It has to find its own way of carrying the electorate with it. Governments begin to encroach on press freedom when they feel threatened by different ideas. The Apartheid government imposed one restriction on the press after another. 

As Mugabe destroyed his country, he accompanied this with restrictions on the media. The Nazis allowed only one official view of everything. 

If our democracy is to thrive and grow,  we need a vibrant and free press. A media tribunal is not necessary to protect anyone against it. It is a form of censorship. We do not need any form of censorship to be re-introduced into South Africa. Censorship goes hand in hand with the erosion of freedom. South Africa has had too much of that and we certainly do not need it again!


Comments (3)Add Comment
written by Dissol, September 04, 2010
I totally agree Barrmar. Of course any free media is going to be more critical of the ruling party; that is just a fact of life that the ANC have to accept. But the media cannot be accused of having to make up bad press about the ruling party. The ruling party manage to produce vast amounts of reportable behaviour. As an electorate, we rely upon the media to report on corruption, on ineptitude from our leaders. When our leaders do, or say outrageous things, then they should not be surprised that the media will report on it.

In fact, I think we aleady have a very weak media in South Africa. There are very few (good) TV shows, or newspaper columnists who regularly take on government officials. Compare that to almost any other free democracy. Have a look at the sort of press that the politicians in Europe, or Australia, have to deal with. The US is a bad exmaple, as you point out, as there has been too much self censorship, and a view was promoted by certain right wing factions that to criticise the leadership is to be in a certain way unpatriotic.

But there is another aspect to this. Increasingly, it seems, the general population is not only becoming less well informed, but they seem to have less of a desire to be informed. I am always surprised with how poorly libraries are used, with how little interest many younger populations have in the news of the day. Students appear to be much less politically activated than ever before. There is a sense of apathy...this is also sad.

I fear that this sense of apathy could feed right into the hands of the promoters of this legislation. So many people appear to be uninterested in the ramifications of this act. I am shocked, given South Africa's history, that the ideal of a free, strong media is not upheld above all else.

I am sure, if this legislation comes into force then I have 2 options open to me. Leave or be arrested. Or a 3rd option...both!! I will not stand quietly by as a cornerstone of democracy is removed; it will be the beginning of the end for South Africa if it is allowed to happen. smilies/cry.gif
written by RIC007GP, September 05, 2010
I agree with both of you. A lot of people are generating a lot of noise about this, but the government is very powerful and as soon as the censorship is introduced the noise will disappear.
The Source
written by The Source, September 06, 2010
I think that as tax payers we deserve to know what ANY government official is up to.

I do not think that our media is targeting the ANC at all. We have seen coverage that put the DA, ID, IFP and COPE in a very bad light. COPE have not been spared at all with their internal and court battles.
Helen Zille is constantly shown where people is townships are shouting at her for lack of service delivery.

Our media is targeting individuals who just happen to be ANC members most of the time. Take care of the members, not the media.

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