End of Public Discourse?

LAST year saw major online media outlets in South Africa, such as IOL canning their comments sections. This year its been telephone call-in lines on SABC radio that have born the brunt of editorial censorship.

Whereas the previous round of public censorship was in reaction to government threats to hold online publishers accountable for comments made by readers, and the re-emergence of moral prudes and political commissars objecting to defamatory comments, this latest bout of censorship appears to be on direct orders from Pretoria and Luthuli House.

It may not be long before letters pages of newspapers are canned, and news broadcasts on radio and television directly vetted by a team of censors acting at the behest of the Film & Publications Control Board. Online publishers continue to face a variety of threats from government.

The tranche of anti-speech bills before Parliament introduced by ANC MPs last year, remain on the agenda. The ruling party remains in a strange coalition with the SACP and FF+, two diametrically opposed political factions, whose common ideology is an intolerance of dissent, an inability to deal with individual freedom of choice, and a host of policies that are the very antithesis of democratic freedoms. SACP for example, does not contest any elections, its members are drawn from a political elite active in the development of policy within the ruling party.

Opposition party, Congress of the People said, “Minister Lindiwe Sisulu should take a close, hard look at what is happening at the SABC to understand why Mosiuoa Lekota is continuously wielding the Constitution in parliament. While Minister Sisulu and her party members bury their heads in the sand, South Africa is fast shedding its democratic character and culture. It is not sufficient to accept that South Africa has a good Constitution, it is imperative to make it visibly work as the supreme law of South Africa. This is where Minister Sisulu and her party members are dismally failing South Africa. They are allowing the steady erosion of the Constitution.”

“For the SABC to have the gall to impose a gag on callers participating in talk-shows is despicable, revolting and sickening. The Public Broadcaster belongs to the people, not the ANC. A talk-in show by its very definition is participatory with open lines. It is anathema to COPE that the SABC continues to be a law unto itself.”

“If the ANC does not act at once to get the fascists at SABC to reverse the gagging order, we and others will have to join together to take this matter to court to interdict the SABC from illegally gagging South Africans.”


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