Africa National Congress Threat to Media in South Africa
How the ruling political party in South Africa is planning to oppress press freedom.
The African National Congress (ANC), the ruling political party in South Africa has showed its fangs, by supporting two controversial legislative proposals aimed at restricting the media.
This is an irony when one takes into account the same party fought against issue such as these during the apartheid era. South Africa has benefited from international goodwill due to its citizens history and fight against minority rule decades ago.
That why it would be a tragedy if the present ANC under President Jacob Zuma allows the protection of Information Media Appeals Tribunal Bills; currently before the nation’s parliament are amended or disregarded to protect post-apartheid gains.
The proposed legislation would definitely harass media independence thus, taking the country back on its present achievements, if passed. When passed the decision would lead to official endorsement of media repression in the region.
The proponents of the bill in parliament argue that the bill would protect state secrets but media groups have also argued that it could be a re-invention of the 1982 apartheid law curtailing investigative journalism. The controversial bill being introduced by Siyabonga Cwel, the minister of security is aimed protecting the present government from press scrutiny and criminal activities , both essential to investigative journalism/reporting –that are crucial to public service.
The authoritative nature of the bill has set international community alert, the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalist) purposes that ‘’Officials and state agencies would have unchecked authority and discretion to classify any public /commercial data as secret; confidential, protected or sensitive’’. Hence, political appointees overseeing state intelligence agencies have final say on which information should be classified or not.
The bill places the onus journalist to establish public interest to justify classification on any information. The tribunal would be given powers to rule on media content that alone become unacceptable (any infraction is punishable by law.) thus, the country’s editors have kicked against it, while the world views is that it would not encourage public interest to be taken into account by exposing corrupt and incompetent public officials.
The extant law on freedom and information already address any form of government reservations. Why the new law? How are journalist deemed erring governments to be disciplined by the tribunal? What going to be the composition?
The law in question is absolute authoritarian in practice and should be condemned by media groups and other international bodies. It would be tragic if the goodwill and momentum the country has gathered through Nelson Mandela and the just concluded world cup popularly referred to as South Africa 2010 are allowed to waste by the current president Zuma government. After a life time fighting oppression would Mandela be happy to see this trend again in his last days? Your guess is good as mine.
Probably the ANC has forgotten the role the media plays in a nation and wants a return to the era of oppression. That would be a shame considering it would majority on majority oppression.
The selfishness of few in the Zuma government should be resisted within and outside the country. The national security is top priority by any government including South Africa; the veil being uncovered if the law is passed brings the real motive to question. That can only guessed by all; the present government wants to secretly aid corruption.