'Media muzzling contradictory'

2010-08-16 17:03

Cape Town - Placing tight controls on media freedom is incompatible with government's stated quest to fight corruption, Azapo said on Monday.

"Those in authority have stated their determination to fight corruption with all the power at their disposal," Azapo president Jake Dikobo said in a statement.

"Recently, the president announced a probe by the Special Investigation Unit into the dodgy affairs of several government departments. We whole-heartedly support these measures," said Dikobo.

"That is why we fail to understand the introduction of the protection of information bill and the suggestion of the creation of the so-called media tribunal at this time."

Dikobo said the media should be seen as an ally in the fight against corruption and maladministration.

"The fight against corruption and the hampering of the media to investigate and bring information to the fore are contradictory actions."

Top secret information

He urged the government to withdraw the bill and abandon the proposal for a media appeals tribunal that reports to Parliament.

"We call on the government to abandon these steps which will gag the media and silence whistle-blowers so that our democracy is strengthened and the citizens informed of developments in their country in a transparent and credible manner."

The protection of information bill would give the State wide powers to classify information deemed to be in national interest and makes publishing top secret information punishable with up to 25 years in prison.

President Jacob Zuma last week denied that it was an attempt to muzzle the media but questioned the press' political and financial motives, as well as its ability to evaluate government's performance.