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Our right to know is under threat

14 December 2012, 11:18

With the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) having passed the Protection of Information Bill, it now seems more likely than ever that the ANC will finally realize its dream of putting us in the dark. What is left now is for the National Assembly to give it a final stamp before passing it to Zuma to sign it into law.

The ANC has relaxed some of its controversial proposals, but this has been overshadowed by its refusal to insert a public interest clause.

The bill will obviously have a negative impact on investigative journalism in South Africa. Without a public interest defence, investigative journalists will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to expose corruption in government. What this means is that exposes such as Nkandlagate, trvavelgate and Bheki Cele’s dodgy lease deals will be a thing of the past.

This bill is, more than anything, inspired by the ANC’s hostile attitude towards the media.

The apartheid government harbored the same attitude towards the fourth estate and to fulfill its narrow interests, it severely restricted media freedom – especially press freedom. It expected   the   role of the media to be that of a patriotic conformist supporting apartheid policy.

The  end  of  the  racial  tyranny  of   apartheid  in 1994 was  a  huge  milestone  for  the  media in  South  Africa.  It  marked  the  end  of  an  era  in  which  journalists    suffered  censure  ,  bannings  and  torture, and ushered  in  an era of media freedom and openness.

There is no denying that the media doesn’t get it right all the time but I, for one, appreciate that it still serves  as  a  watch  dog, offers  a  voice  to  the  voiceless and  plays  a  huge  role  in  developing  public  opinion.

A dark era of press freedom has already dawned in our beloved South Africa and if we really love this country and take pride in all its achievements, we should be worried.

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