Posted by: Khatija on May 17, 2011
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
These words said by Nelson Mandela 47 years ago from the dock in the Rivonia Trial.
South Africa’s third local government elections, set for 18 May 2011, are less than 24 hours away. Seemingly positive progression if only the liberation that was fought for pre-1994 was not under threat only 17 years later. This freedom is not-so-subtly being taken away by the Protection of Information Act (PIA) which is exceedingly reminiscent of Apartheid policy, suppressing the majority whilst privileging the minority.
Elections give citizens the right to choose by ballot members to represent them in government. The Constitution states that everyone has the right to access any information held by the state. In effect, all information can be kept a secret because of the broad definition of ‘national interest’ and ‘security’ in the Bill.
The PIA will affect not only journalists but also the ordinary citizens’ right to have access to information. Carrying a penalty of 25 years in jail if breached, the Act denies journalists the right to access information classified as ‘sensitive.’
In 2010, the African National Congress (ANC) was in the process of launching a programme to improve its relationship with and accessibility to the media in its appeal to the media to be objective when reporting about the ruling party.
ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe said “We want to engage more freely and openly.”
This could be an attempt by the ANC to ‘save themselves.’ 2009 and 2010 proved to be busy years for the South African media as they exposed numerous truths about the government and President, Jacob Zuma’s private life.
The Promotion of Information Act can be seen as unconstitutional, going against the duty of government which is to promote transparency and openness. Its announcement was met with opposition from the public.
Infringing the public’s right to have access to information is illegal and restricting people from accessing information in an effort to monitor media content is unethical.
Until the next time