Proposed media laws distracting and expensive - Haffajee

2015-10-19 19:58


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Johannesburg - The media has been dealing with the threat of a media appeals tribunal for seven years and the secrecy bill for four years, which has been distracting and expensive, City Press editor Ferial Haffajee said on Monday.

"I certainly have begun to self-censor a lot," she said at the SA National Editors' Forum's Media Freedom Day commemoration in Johannesburg.

"It has cost us millions of Rands to make all the presentations against the secrecy bill and also initially the media appeals tribunal which we thought was really gone given the excellent work Joe [Thloloe, director in the Press Council] and his team are doing to keep us on our toes."

It was an ominous time, Haffajee added.

But the City Press editor questioned whether the media should be engaging these two pieces of law, saying she would argue not.

"I think you give... a veneer of legitimacy to an idea that is clearly anti-democratic and I feel like we spend too much time doing that already.

"What I have experienced the past seven years has really allowed politicians... to grandstand a lot. It's career making... for people who are looking for big state jobs and it is scalp seeking."

Haffajee said she believed that the media should let the secrecy bill and the media appeals tribunal go through Parliament and then fight it in the Constitutional Court.

"We should assemble a war chest and fight those pieces of law... in the [Constitutional Court] where I think we [are] going to have the real debates... on what media freedom is in South Africa and what its limits are and what the role of the government... should be."

Haffajee was on Monday joined on a panel by Botswanan editor Mpho Dibeela and Mozambican editor Fernando Goncalves to speak about media freedom.

Dibeela said the space in which the media worked was under attack.

"Government seems to be too sensitive."

There were also those who believed the media needed to be disciplined.

Goncalves said people took freedom for granted, but freedom came at a price.

"The real tragedy of Africa is [that] post-colonial regimes replicate what oppressors did to people in Africa.

"New laws were crafted to... discipline the media. I am suspicious when politicians say media needs to be disciplined," he said.

Both editors spoke about challenges their countries faced.

Media Freedom Day commemorates the events of October 19 1977, when apartheid authorities jailed a number of reporters.

Read more on:    ferial haffajee  |  johannesburg  |  media

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