Saving lives. One word at a time.
Limitations of the Freedom of the Press and State Secrecy
“In August 2011”, says Amnesty International, “members of the Hawks unlawfully arrested a Sunday Times investigative journalist, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, apparently in connection with his reporting on an alleged hit squad linked to senior members of the Mpumalanga provincial government. They seized his notebooks and held him at various locations for 24 hours before he was allowed access to his lawyer. Following an urgent court application, the Pretoria High Court ordered his immediate release.”
The incident occurred at a time of increased pressure from the ruling ANC and the government for stricter control of the media and freedom of expression through a proposed Media Appeals Tribunal and a new piece of legislation aimed at the Protection of Information law. Civil Society Organizations launched a Right2Know campaign in opposition to these developments. (Amnesty International report)
Two months after this incident, the South African Government introduced the Protection of Information Bill, which was eerily similar to legislation of the Apartheid Government that effectively silenced the media, three decades earlier. This legislation casts an all encompassing veil of secrecy across the entire public sector which comprises all state institutions, universities and state owned entities at every level of government. There is no doubt that communist practices are being implemented.
Secrecy is achieved by giving the correspondingly wide range of officials the power to classify information as secret. Any party – including journalists – who expose and/or handle ‘secrets’ in the public interest are criminalized and face the risk of up to 25 years imprisonment.
Six months later, on June 17, 2012, The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma conducted a visit to Sophiatown in Johannesburg and outlined his aims for the full control of the media in South Africa16. “Another project that we must own, and own seriously, is the media. As long as we don’t own the media, we are going to be complaining every day that they are against us etc. At the moment, all what we do is to buy shares – that is not owning. Buy shares, and they say don’t talk, don’t talk… you are the owner.” “I am told, and I don’t know if it is true, that when Black people started buying newspapers they changed the practice and the editors declared independence from the owners.
They (the media) are very independent out there, you can’t tell them what to do. They can even paint you black being an owner. So who owns the media really? In any case, I am just saying that is part of the problem,” It is evident from the above paragraphs that the motive for control of the media by President Jacob Zuma is to silence freedom of speech and to control the media. In turn there can be nothing less than a sinister motive for wanting to control the media and shed a veil of secrecy over the State.
I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.