Thursday, 1 September 2011

ANC tightens grip on Media

The ANC are still planning to go ahead with implementing the 'Protection of Information Bill' despite condemnation from opposition parties and civil rights groups.

The purpose of the bill is to prevent 'classified information' or 'state secrets' being published by the media.

According to the ANC the bill would force “journalists to hand secret files to the police, then request the minister to declassify them if they felt the information belonged in the public domain.”

The penalty for breaking this law would be 10 years in jail.
Losing the case would also result in a 10 year prison sentence for the source or the 'whistleblower'.

The ANC has also rejected the insertion of a “public interest” defence clause into the bill calling the opposition's arguments 'lopsided' and stated the debate on the issue was over.

If South Africa were at war with another country one could maybe see the justification for a temporary use of such a law, but South Africa is not at war with another state.

The only 'classified' information which seems to get leaked to the media is about exposing ANC corruption, political squabbles or withheld information relating to crime statistics.

And who will oversea or limit the ANC in declaring what information or documents are 'classified' or 'state secrets'?

This law has been strongly opposed by all opposition parties but yet the ANC is still going ahead and having the bill passed.
This is the problem of a 'one-party dominant state' since it effectively functions the same as a one-party state.
The only difference is that the small opposition parties are allowed to exist, even though it won't make a difference to what the majority party do or which laws they pass.

It is not normal for a political party to be equated as one and the same as the state. The reason being that it is not the practice of a democratic state but rather a totalitarian one that controls all aspects of the state and society.
But yet this is what the ANC openly preaches.

The main problem with this bill despite being against freedom of speech and freedom of information is it would punish anyone who tries to expose the government or reveal incriminating documents with 10 years in prison.

This would effectively make any journalists too afraid to apply to have any information 'declassified' since if their application is denied, they or their revealed source could receive imprisonment!

Needless to say, sources would be reluctant to reveal themselves when providing information and the onus would fall on the journalists, thus making them responsible for the possession of the such 'classified' documents.

It is a law designed to heavily discourage bringing such information out into the open; as the risks taken to apply for publication are immense and outweigh the risks for a career journalist who has no interest ending up in the hell-hole and death sentence of a South African prison.

This law would of course still not be realistically enforceable on the internet, but if private internet journalists or writers publish such 'classified' information and could be traced by state agents then they would no doubt still be subject to imprisonment.

In the Mbeki/Zuma feud a few years back, the NIA (National Intelligence Agency) had been under Mbeki's control and like most of the public sector was led by an ANC cadre 'deployed' by Mbeki himself.
Information relating to Zuma's private life as well as evidence for his trial had been directly and deliberately leaked to the media by the NIA effectively giving him a 'trial by media' as he has stated.

The corruption allegations which included state evidence such as incriminating documents, details of the rape accusations before he was put on trial, as well as his visit to Libya and his receiving of $2 million from Gaddafi after Cosatu and the ANC Youth League delegation had visited, were all leaked by the NIA. Most of this information would have only been accessible to the NIA.

If Zuma is putting the blame on the media for his 'trial by media' and the damaging of his image, then this blame is misguided.
The media had merely done their job in publishing the information as it would in any other democratic society; exposing corruption, though this time at the behest of one of the ruling factions within the ANC, namely that of Mbeki.

If Zuma or the ANC wanted to address the issue, they should start with ensuring impartial non-politically aligned people getting leadership positions in the public sector.
But of course this is against the Marxist-Leninist leadership structure of the ANC and the National Democratic Revolution which espouses total control and political 'hegemony in all sectors of society'.

As a result 'cadres' are 'deployed' and report directly to the President. This applies to the NIA, Police, Army, SABC (state TV), Eskom (state electrity) as well as all public sectors in society.

But of course the media is still independent, and until the bill is promulgated the government can still not regulate and control what is printed about them.
Even though the local media still generally panders to the ANC and much of the English newspapers are owned by an ANC-aligned businessman, their job is still to sell newspapers.
Therefore they still expose corruption and political scandals and this is of course the main problem.

When one political party directly controls all parts of the state and wants to make it 'illegal' to write about certain information about the government and imprison people for violating this law, then it's certainly an ominous sign.

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