Parts of Media Act unconstitutional

2012-09-29 08:08
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Johannesburg - The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) on Friday welcomed the Constitutional Court's ruling that amended sections of the Films and Publications Act were unconstitutional.

"Sanef is delighted with the judgment," it said in a statement.

"It represents an important affirmation of the principle that pre-publication restraints on speech are particularly constitutionally offensive, and that robust protections for free speech are fundamental to our democratic order."

The provisions, introduced in 2010, require that publications - excluding newspapers - are approved before publication if they contain sexual conduct.

Print and Digital Media SA and Sanef argued that pre-publication classification should not be necessary for publications aimed at educating the public or condemning sexual conduct.

The classification process would delay publication and increase production costs because the act required the entire publication be screened and not only the contentious material.

Test-case for freedom of expression

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg previously found the provisions inconsistent with the Constitution.

Sanef said: "The [Constitutional] court found that sections of the [Act] requiring pre-publication classification of material dealing with 'sexual conduct' limited the freedom of expression vital to a democracy and offended against the Constitution."

"It ruled that the limitation was neither proportional to its objectives, nor justifiable, and that less restrictive means could be used to achieve the same outcomes."

While mainstream newspapers were exempted from these rules, all other publications including magazines, books, artworks and internet speech were not, it said.

The requirement to submit for classification before publishing anything containing sexual conduct impacted on all publishers, so this was a victory for the public's right to receive information.

The Constitutional Court's ruling in favour of Sanef and Print and Digital Media SA was a crucial test-case for freedom of expression, Sanef said.
- SAPA

Read more on:    sanef  |  constitutional court  |  media  |  legislation
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