25 August 2010

Media Appeals Tribunal Update

I've received some insightful comments on my Media Tribunal posts. Here's a quick summary of them:

against media tribunal twitter twibbon facebook protest
More than one thousand bloody agents have joined the No Media Tribunal campaign.

A summary of the Media Appeals Tribunal debate

  • The Media Tribunal and the Protection of Information bill are two separate concerns. The Protection of Information Bill is already on the table, while the disgraced Media Tribunal is fast becoming a political liability so it's unlikely to even reach parliament.

  • Neither of these bills appear to be founded on constitutional values and many experts agree that they will not make it past the Constitutional Court in their current form.

  • Nevertheless, the ANC claims that there is overwhelming support for the Media Tribunal and thinks that going ahead with this bill is still a great idea. This despite the fact that it's been shelved before due to overwhelming opposition to the bill and the current backlash from the public against the notion.

  • The media is aware of its own shortcomings, but disagrees with the idea of a statutory body that oversees the press. In any event, the notion of such a statutory body is in direct conflict with the Bill of Rights.

  • Some believe that the media should be censored to attenuate certain ideologies in favour of spreading certain different ideologies. I do not think this is relevant to the debate at all. It certainly isn't the function of any democratic government to dictate ideology with statutory bodies.

    Many of the catchphrases border on sloganeering and have no rational basis. Some of these include ill-defined terms such as addressing inequalities, neoliberalism, market fundamentalism, public interest and national security.

    Some of the claims are demonstrably false, namely that market profitability drives all media (the SABC isn't profitable and it's the biggest media mouthpiece in the country), a cartel owns all South African media (besides the SABC, there are two major syndicates and many independent papers, not counting community newspapers), or that there is overwhelming public support for the Media Tribunal and this justifies a little compromise on the side of our constitution (the backlash against both the Protection of Information Bill and the Media Appeals Tribunal proposal has been incredible).

  • If the ANC were really concerned about its image, it would focus on radio since radio has the highest penetration of any medium in South Africa. The ANC already effectively controls radio as radio belongs to the SABC - one of our many beleaguered parastatals. It does not make sense to try and censor the local press, unless perhaps the government has something to hide from the foreign press? Like, say, a white genocide or two?

  • The argument that the Media Tribunal is not a personal vendetta against the press is incredibly weak - laughable, even. Especially in light of the public sector strike that is out of control, the doings of the Don Jackie Selebi, the current state of our national defence force... I could go on but you have a free press for the time being and you don't have to look hard.

Meanwhile I have gone from exponential growth to linear growth in the support of my No Media Tribunal campaign. If you'd like to pledge your support, feel free to do so and please keep in mind that pledging your support does not mean that you agree with my views expressed here (or anywhere else) in any way. In fact, the point of freedom of speech is that we may allow differences of opinion and opposing views, because ultimately this results in a wise crowd.

Suggested reading on South African Media Freedom

  1. Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils drafted the original Protection of Information Bill and claims not to recognise the current one in Defend democracy - don't gag it!

  2. Journalists highlight their concerns with the onslaught on South African press freedom.

  3. A recent Wits debate on the Media Tribunal where Action Jackson of the ANC got his behind handed to him.

  4. The Committee to Protect Journalists raise their concerns about South African media freedom and suggests that president Jacob Zuma is in a position to stop this madness before South Africa loses its position as a leader of the free press in Africa.

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