South Africa in an Uproar Over Proposals to Restrict Media
A new uproar has developed in South Africa over proposals by the governing African National Congress to impose curbs on that country’s dynamic and freewheeling press.
Two legislative proposals have drawn criticism not only from local and foreign journalists, but also from the South African business community and even the U.S.
The ANC, now in power for 16 years, is working to change South Africa’s media landscape by putting forward legislation that would curb the work of journalists. Its proposed Media Appeals Tribunal would replace the current system of self-regulation with a body that could prosecute journalists for inaccuracies and would be responsible to the ANC-controlled parliament.
Another hit to media freedom comes in a separate piece of legislation — the Protection of Information Bill — that would classify information deemed to be “in the national interest,” and make the publication of classified information punishable by up to 25 years in jail.
The outcry to this proposed legislation, coming on top of the arrest of an investigative journalist earlier this month, has been swift, sharp and verging on panic. Many journalists draw comparisons to the choking of a once-free press in neighboring Zimbabwe.