Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Are the Presses to become less Free?

When I left the UK, many people questioned whether South Africa could ever become like Zimbabwe. “Not a chance”, was always my immediate reply, given that the country holds such a key position in international business and is a vital link between the world and Africa in very many instances.

And yet, for all my optimism, it does appear as if the country stands at the top of a very slippery, and terribly steep slope – one which, if we roll down, we could find the hard work of democratic change over the last 14 years undone in an instant.

Local newspapers have today reported that the “South African media faces the threat of political censorship if new information laws are passed through parliament unchanged”. It would appear that the draft bill that is currently under review seeks to replace an apartheid era bill governing the protection of information. However, in a move that is like something out of a John Grisham novel, the Bill appears to have a hidden agenda. “The bill would make the unauthorised disclosure of information a crime and journalists could be prosecuted for espionage. Investigative reporters fear that would severely limit their ability to break stories.”

The report continues, saying that “South African politicians have increasingly approached the courts to prevent the publication of details of deals that have drawn accusations of corruption. Until now, they have had limited success.”

At a time when governmental forces are trying to dissolve the special unit within the South African police force that investigates corruption (with some degree of success it must be added) it seems strange that an attack is being made on the Freedom of the Presses in a manner that would further seek to hinder the exposure of corrupt practices and individuals.

It is ironic that the struggle for political freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of race, colour and creed, fought for so long as almost been forgotten as the fight now appears to turn to one of defending particular individuals at the expense of the national good.

Could South Africa ever become another Zimbabwe? Until just a few moments ago I was adamant it couldn’t. I am far less certain right now…


po said...

What about the new land appropriation bill that is proposed? Apparently people are worried that that will lead to Zimbabwean style land seizures as well. I hope not.

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