From midnight 22 November 2011 until midnight tonight, 23 November, the University of the Free State's KovsieFM will cease all broadcasts. Instead, only dead air will be aired for 24 hours to symbolically emphasize the impact the Parliamentary decision could have on the media in South Africa. As a youth medium, it firmly believes that media freedom is essential in a democratic society.Editors walk out of debate
Editors from around the country observed the debate in the National Assembly and were struck by the intensity with which opposition parties sought to repudiate the bill in its current form and to delay its passage. After the final vote, the editors rose as one and left the public gallery in protest.
According to SANEF
, this need not be the end of the road. The National Council of Provinces can still remedy the remaining serious flaws in the bill or president Jacob Zuma can return it to Parliament. If that does not happen, the bill has only one destination: the Constitutional Court.
SANEF hopes that legal action will not be necessary and that parliament will seize this last chance to do the right thing. It will continue to work with fraternal organisations and civil society formations to stop this bill. It will also engage with ANC and government leadership to find a solution that builds and supports South Africa's constitutional democracy.
This bill has been the source of much division and the battles around it undermined the nation building and cohesion the country developed in the run-up to and during, the 2010 FIFA World Cup. International reputation damage
SANEF believes that the damage to South Africa's reputation as an international beacon of democratic behaviour and good governance is immeasurable. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) agrees, noting with regret the decision to pass the Protection of State Information Bill.
It calls on Zuma and the ANC to follow through on its pledge of a fully public and consultative process on this bill. While civil society, including MMA, has stated its willingness to challenge the bill at the Constitutional Court, it believes it is not too late for Zuma to ensure the bill can pass constitutional muster and it calls on him to send the bill back for revision.
A further side effect of the bill is that it has seen a trend towards national, provincial and local institutions tending towards a culture of secrecy. Several of the citizen protests that have taken place have been about people in poor communities demanding not only responses from local councillors but also information from their municipality. Each time the bill is endorsed by national figures, the culture of secrecy is deepened.
On 20 September 2011, Zuma was one of the world's first signatories to the global Open Government initiative. In his opening remarks, he said, "Open government in the South African case is premised on our progressive and transformative Constitution which enshrines a Bill of Rights and the principles of open governance."SA will be the focus of the world's attention
The MMA is challenging the president, and the South African government, to live up to his words and the spirit of our Constitution and to fight the growing culture of secrecy, especially since in less than one week, SA will be the focus of the world's attention as it hosts the climate change negotiations at COP17
Over 25 000 international participants and 2 000 members of the world's media are expected to attend and, as SA hosts the world at this critical event, concerns of press freedom, limiting access to information to activists and NGOs, and SAs commitment to transparency and program should not dominate the agenda or media coverage, cautions the MMA.