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.