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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists



RELEASE TIME: 20 October 2010, 9.00am

Institute of Journalists Calls on Nelson Mandela to resist legislation

THE CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF JOURNALISTS has appealed directly to Nelson Mandela in an effort to stop Draft legislation to control and censor the media in South Africa, reminiscent of apartheid-era laws.

Following a formal letter to South African President Jacob Zuma, the President of the CIoJ, Liz Justice, and the Chairman of the CIoJ’s International Division, Alun Hill, have asked the former president to use his influence to halt this potential disaster in its tracks.

“Nelson Mandela knows more than most, the true cost of trying to remove this type of censorship once it has taken hold in government,” said Justice. “It is our hope that he will use his considerable influence to help the South African government see sense before it is too late.”

“The only people who have reason to fear the media,” said Hill, “are those who are incompetent, corrupt, dishonest, or do things that are against the interests of the country. Politicians who are honest and work in the best interests of the country have nothing to fear.”

Hill continued: “The reputation of the media in South Africa in the years since the fall of apartheid has been very good. It is now one of the more free and best in Africa. It would be a shame and a big mistake to reintroduce press censorship and controls similar to those of the apartheid era that would make it much more difficult for the media to keep the people of South Africa informed about what is going on in the country.”

The Institute is objecting to two proposed measures, the Protection of Information Bill and a Media Appeals Tribunal. The bill makes it much easier for South African ministers to classify measures and activities as secret or confidential, and it provides for severe penalties – up to 25 years in jail – for journalists or anyone else publishing information about measures or activities that have been classified.

The Media Appeals Tribunal would replace the Press Council and Press Ombudsman to decide what the media can and cannot publish. The present system, which many say works well, is an independent system run by the media and forcing publications to publish large corrections if something they print was untrue or misleading. Members of the ANC, the majority party in South Africa, some of whom have been criticised by the media, want a Media Appeals Tribunal under Parliament’s control to take over the powers of deciding what the media can or cannot publish and what punishment should be given to publications found guilty of printing untrue or misleading information. The Tribunal would be appointed by Parliament and have to report regularly to Parliament.


Notes to editors:

Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

It has members in South Africa and an interest in the interests of journalists worldwide.