|An original Rothko- not.|
The media declared the 22nd of November 2011 as “Black Tuesday”; a campaign against the Protection of State Information Bill. Is it just another suburban middle class concern?
Political analyst Steven Friedman writes in the Business Day: “If we want to protect our freedoms, we need to make sure they are not seen as the concern of only a few”. He believes the Bill has been misconstrued as it will not hamper investigative journalism or prevent the media from reporting on corruption.
COSATU said “There is immense potential for conflicts of interest to influence decision-making and illustrates the potential breadth of the Bill’s impact on rights of access to information and the promotion of the principles of transparency and accountability”. They are also concerned with the bill’s lack of proper guidelines, possible interpretations and “problematic” definitions.
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory said South African’s should be worried because the Bill trumps any legislation inconsistent with it. Furthermore “The Secrecy Bill provides that a classified record must be declassified before it is released. If it is released prior to declassification both the person releasing and the person receiving the information may be subject to criminal prosecution.”
The South African National Editors’ Forum views the bill as “a danger to democracy, and a threat to their rights. We had hoped MPs would hear the clamour at the gates of the legislature, but they chose to stop their ears.”
Various civil society groups, media houses, opposition parties and even church representatives are enraged. They are of the view that the bill will serve to protect corrupt leaders and bad governance.
I watched half of the American Music Awards. I reached breaking point and went to bed when Enrique Iglesious tried to con us into thinking he was still relevant with his good looks and a choir. Anyways, this is not completely unrelated to the topic. The bill may have been passed. It may serve to cover up indiscretions (Don’t you love that word? It’s so polite). It may require media houses to start budgeting for more frequent meetings with lawyers. It may suggest that democracy is something we aspire towards yet never fully achieve.
However, Osip Mandlestam, Soviet poet and literary critic still wrote poetry under Stalin’s totalitarian regime. Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela still sang their hearts out against the cruel apartheid regime. Dada and other surrealists continued to paint the sad aftermath of World War I. Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote even in detention for raising political consciousness in 1977. We still have words, thoughts, music, art in all its forms and of course, Enrique. The internet alone has multipied available forums for frank discussion and revelations. The Bill does not even begin to threaten freedom of speech… in my opinion.