Silent demo for media freedom draws 300 protesters

2010-09-16 00:00

ABOUT 300 students, journalists and media workers turned out in Pietermaritzburg yesterday for a silent protest against the proposed media appeals tribunal and the Protection of Information Bill.

The protest, held along Alan Paton Avenue, was organised by the Concerned Media Scholars’ Association (CMSA).

Convenor Nicola Jones said the turnout was very good, and they plan to hold another protest soon.

“We need more members of the public to get involved in this demonstration because that is the only way in which to get the message across,” said Jones.

She said the CMSA is determined to draw the public’s attention to the dangers of the proposed measures and the far-reaching implications of attacks on freedom of speech.

“We agree that occasionally legitimate grounds exist for protecting certain information. But this should be the exception and not routine,” she said.

Jones said the disclosure of sensitive information should be tolerated in a democracy because the consequences of secrecy — a lack of accountability, abuse of power, infringements of human rights and a culture of impunity — can imperil the democratic process.

She said citizens need information in order to make responsible choices and that the draft bill clashes with the constitutional right of access to information and the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

The bill will not only harm journalism, but it will also cripple academics because they will not be at liberty to pursue research, Jones added.

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