Right2Know marches for lower call rates and media transformation

2014-10-18 15:09

Around 250 people marched in Cape Town today to demand lower mobile call rates and media transformation.

The group blew whistles as they marched down Long Street and carried signs stating: “Free Set Top Box” and “Media for the people”.

A rapper, on the truck leading the march, belted out catchy lyrics calling for free internet and media.

Police vans and motorbikes escorted the group.

The march, organised by the Right2Know campaign, started at around 11am.

R2K Western Cape coordinator Ghalib Galant said one purpose of the march was to protest against the high cost of connection.

They handed over memoranda of demands to Vodacom and MTN, calling for all mobile phone users to receive the lowest advertised rates.

The memo also demanded the companies stop “the promotional gimmicks” used for call rates that prejudiced users.

The campaign wanted a response by November 1.

One of the marchers, a 16-year-old Hout Bay resident who did not want to be named, said he did not know why he marching.

Texting on his phone and speaking at the same time, he said a friend invited him to attend.

Mitchells Plain resident Leonie Abrahams (50) said pre-paid mobile rates were too expensive and internet cafes charged high prices.

“We can’t even upgrade our phones. If we’ve got a phone, then we must be happy,” she said.

Galant said the second purpose of the march was to call for “real” transformation in the media.

He said most print media in the country was owned by four major media houses, one of them being the Independent Group.

“At the moment, these are commercial enterprises and the editorial interference means that when I pick up a newspaper, that’s already been slanted in terms of certain interests,” he said.

He said the campaign was calling for media houses to change their ownership model and to invest in community media so that these voices could be heard.

At around noon, the march ended in front of Newspaper House, home to Independent Newspapers. Around ten police officers in riot gear manned the entrance, which was blocked off with yellow tape.

A memorandum of demands was addressed to Sekunjalo chairperson Iqbal Survé, whose consortium bought Independent Newspapers last year.

The document stated that while it supported the group as a black-owned media entity; it was concerned that editorial freedom was under threat by managerial interference.

One of its demands was that independent parties and institutions be allowed to draft an editorial charter for the newspaper group and that an editorial advisory board be created.

This board would include civil society.

The memo also called for journalists to be fairly remunerated and to ensure that there was sufficient staff.

Regarding regulations, it stated: “Engage fully in a Parliamentary exploration of regulatory means to limit concentration of media ownership and ensure media transformation and diversity”.

The group was asked to respond by the end of the month.

The R2K campaign was also holding a march in Joburg. The marches took place ahead of Black Wednesday on Sunday, which commemorated the banning of media, deemed to be promoting the struggle, by the apartheid government on October 19 1977.

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