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Reviewing 2010's proposed legislation

As the year draws to a close, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) reviews the new and proposed legislation that were put forward that could have the potential to severely clamp down on the realisation of our human rights to freedom of expression, as well as access to information.

According to Prinola Govenden, head of Media Policy, the media are key enablers and protectors of our human rights and should be a champion for the realisation of human rights but need the freedom to do so.

A brief summary of the threats (in their current form) to key human rights of freedom of expression and access to information, include:

  • ICASA Amendment Bill - grants powers to the Minister of Communications at ICASA that are both unconstitutional and illogical. There is no evidence or rational presented to substantiate the proposed amendments. ICASA has constitutionally enshrined "independence" and is the regulator for television, radio, including the SABC who broadcasts to the largest audience of the South African public. These new powers proposed include, the Minister may direct the ICASA Council Chairperson to perform functions as the Minister may see as necessary.
  • Protection of Information Bill will regulate the classification of information but poses many threats for the public's right to receive information, access to information as well as the media's right to freedom. For example, there is an absence of a public interest defence meaning where there could be a legitimate public interest defence for media to publicise and fulfil their watchdog role, going ahead and publishing could mean a minimum jail sentences of three years and maximums of five years each, for both the whistle-blower and the media.
  • Statutory Media Appeals Tribunal has been proposed by the ANC that Parliament investigate, would regulate the print media, and poses severe implications for the free flow of information and censoring content.
  • The Public Service Broadcasting Bill has recently been withdrawn for more re-drafting, public consultation and research, and would have seen the SABC, community media and ICASA move toward greater risk of undue government control and Ministerial influence.

Join the debate on the media's role in human rights on Media Matters' facebook page.

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