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Menings | Opinion > SeminaarKamer | Seminar Room > English > Mini-seminars

We object: The POIB and the MAT pose a deadly threat to our democracy

Dave Steward - 2010-09-28

The Protection of Information Bill (POIB) and the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) are irreconcilable with the founding principles of openness, accountability and transparency upon which our constitutional democracy has been based. Section 16 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression which is limited only by the prohibition of propaganda for war; incitement of imminent violence; or advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm. People also have a right to defend themselves in the courts against libel and crimen injuria. No other limitation on the freedom of expression is permissible. The media certainly are not required to play a social role in promoting any political agenda, such as “the developmental state”. Neither is there any requirement that media should be “demographically representative”. Were this the case then the voices of minority interests would automatically be silenced. Everybody must be free to participate in the market place of ideas – both as purveyors and as consumers of information and opinion.

At the same time, the media in virtually all democracies accept the need for self-regulation – generally by enforcing compliance with a press code which seeks to promote fairness and journalistic ethics. It is, for obvious reasons, impermissible for the state in any guise (parliament or a Chapter 9 institution) to play a role in this process. We should welcome the fact that the Press Council is considering ways of strengthening the Ombudsman and the present system.

However, we should do everything we can to oppose the POIB and the MAT since they pose a deadly threat to our democracy – despite the lame assurances of the government. All those who seek to understand the real motives involved should study the discussion paper on this topic that was prepared for the NGC.

Dave Steward
Executive Director of the FW de Klerk Foundation


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