MEDIA CENSORSHIP BILL: press have only themselves to blame.


South Africa is hurtling towards another period of press censorship, with the impending enactment of the Film and Publications Amendment Bill this week. After a relatively unrestricted period that could see a return to the censorship of the eighties, limp-wristed media activists could be up in arms but the press have only themselves to blame. The same press which censored journalists over the right to question AIDS statistics in the late nineties and then destroyed careers over the right to hold opinions about George W Bush’s War Against Terror after 2001, is now bleeting about government interfearance and the threat of media regulation.

Surely somebody would have rung the alarm bell, but is seems a little government interfearance is necessary to put everything into perspective. Come on, the only way to prevent the pedofiles at Independent News & Media from destroying the fabric of civilisation with their spew about Jacob Zuma is to regulate them. The only way to stop the Media24 machine populated by robots and Yes-men, is to take away some of their freedom, freedom which, paradoxically, they never bothered fighting for, and which instead, was briefly won, via numerous battles in the alternative press — titles like Vrye Weekblad (closed down after lengthy legal battle) and South, (defunct because of the profligacy of Prof Guy Berger).

It is ironic that the self-same advocates of apartheid are now muttering about censorship and freedom of speech, having censored and blacked out most of the struggle. Media24 have actually gone so far as to attempt to gag the Alternative Media Forum. Could we be suffering from collective amnesia? A hole in the head is more likely. With South Africa’s press gone to rot, and the likes of David Bullard and Derek Wilson populating the weekend columns, we should be overjoyed that the government is finally doing something constructive with our tax money.

Let the press be damned and publish this if you dare. Oh, I forget, this is an online blog and nobody can stop me….

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7 comments

  1. shire

    David, I disagree with you.

    Your premise seems to be based on the assumption that any view that is published by the press is automatically adopted by the public, as if people have no means to judge and draw their own independent conclusions about what is said or read. The same premise has lead you to adopt an inverted notion of the government’s actual function and purpose.

    In the context of the communications industry in a free society, the government’s role is to protect free speech, including freedom of the press. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an organization or an individual. Any government intervention involving censorship is a threat to the market of ideas, to the freedom of man’s mind, and to his independent use of it.

    A media owner is merely offering a voice for a particular view – it does not force people to hold such views. People are free to apply their own judgement and decide for themselves what to read, which magazines and newspaper to buy, and which views to accept. The decision of what is said or what get’s published is up to the individual and the press itself. Those who don’t like what is said should be free to start their own publication.

    But if the government forces an individual or an organization to say or not say something, it is a violation of a basic right, which becomes a threat, not only to the media industry, but to the rights of individual’s like you and me. And just as we can’t go to a newspaper and force them the publish our work, neither should the government be able to force the newspaper not to publish it.

    The principle of free speech cannot be applied partially if it is to be a principle. Any breach in part, is a breach in it’s entirety. One either accepts it as an absolute or not at all. Those who don’t accept it absolutely and think force i.e. government intervention is necessary (sometimes), should question themselves as to whether they belong in the intellectual profession. A profession where ideas, not muscles are the ruling power.

  2. sugarnspite

    I knew it would only be a matter of time given how romances seem to be budding around this place. I guess we’re going to have to pry you away from each other with a crowbar because when you guys really get going it will be like the 4th of July. All that tension and electricity… wait here’s a thought…. why don’t you invite Johan beaurain along and have a little menage a trois?

    Now that should blow our collective hair back.

    sugarnspite
    “you’re going to have to save yourself”

  3. mediastudent

    Well put, Shire, couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I am doubtful as to whether the proposed bill will be passed, as it is clearly unconstitutional and a load of (censored). Not only does it amount to press restriction of the worst kind, but it will also mean that news will be hopelessly delayed, and this is unnacceptable. We need to have more faith in media consumers – they are not just a bunch of brainless sheep.

    The Bill is in conflict with the ICASA Act and the Broadcasting Act. SA media, for all its sensationalist faults, is extremely jealous of its freedom and won’t take such a thing lying down.

  4. davidrobertlewis

    It all depends on whether one has a premise as such, and what the premise is or is not: Compare the capitalist notion of the “marketplace of ideas” with Antonio Gramsci’s notion of “hegemony”. Then of course there is the idea of the “public sphere” touted by the Frankfurt School.

    It is all very well to rant and rave about a material or ideological breach, but at the end of the day, the fact remains that our “unrestricted media” deserves a period of censorship. In fact the restrictions placed by government are merely following the same logic of those media bosses who censor views they don’t agree with. Of course this is a machievellian notion, I rather prefer to agree with the principle of free speech.

    In a free and open society one should be able to purchase the viewpoints of all sides, even the “side I wish to suppress”, so one can talk about the so-called marketplace of ideas, however, in South Africa, where society is not so free and still recovering from decades of stagnation, the truth remains — there really is very little to choose from in such a market.

    Our press has tended to narrow down debates and seems to exist in an ever-thinning vacuum in which the same views, voices, pundits are used over and over again to exhaustion. The point is, these ideas are therefore magnified so that they appear to be those of the majority, who by force of this argument, accept them as such.

    Take the case of the few, media cartels which control what we read, in some cases dominating the marketplace to the point of saturation. In Cape Town, both daily newspapers (Cape Times & Argus) are owned by the same company, which also owns the Daily Voice tabloid.

    Media24 own nearly every magazine on the shelf, including titles one associates with teenage rebellion like Blunt, and are massive when it comes to television. We are in a bad state of affairs with regards to cross-ownership of media and so I welcome the opportunity presented by government’s attempt at regulation, merely because it allows me to raise such issues as my own gagging, and censorship at the hands of these apparent “free speech advocates”.

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