South Africa’s “Protection of Information Bill” Reeks

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I’m no politician. And I’m no lawyer. I’m a humble country blogger who simply wants the best for my country.

And any attempt by the South African government to constrain the media in their duty to inform us of what is happening doesn’t cut it for me. It stinks. It reeks of more bad smells than the ablution area used by a herd of elephants after a big night on a particularly virulent vindaloo curry. The Protection Of Information Bill wouldn’t smell any better if you had just emerged from a vrot fortnight spent down in the main sewer under the Johannesburg CBD.

A herd of elephants would be hard-pressed to push out an aroma as foul as the one around the Protection Of Information Bill. Even if they lived solely on a diet of Vivek's most volatile vindaloo. Pic: Daryl Balfour / www.darylbalfour.com

Whether you think that the South African media are doing a good job of reporting to us the facts of whether our country is being properly governed or not, a government that doesn’t hold itself properly accountable wanting to hold what should be an independent press accountable is just rotten.

And, in my book, unconstitutional. Take this bit of South Africa’s constitution, much-lauded as the “most democratic and progressive” prototype of its kind anywhere on the planet. “Everyone has the right of access to any information held by the state. And any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.”

Now any government which purports to govern by these principles has no business wanting to control in any way what our media tells us about what is going down in our country. It’s just not right. It speaks of a government operating from a place of fear. Why? Good question. The Protection Of Information Bill must be resisted with every ounce of strength that all right-thinking South Africans can muster.

I came across this commentary by Jonny Steinberg, author and member of the Institute for Humanities in Africa at the University of Cape Town in a Times Live column yesterday. As I said, I’m no politician. But the angle which Steinberg takes in his analysis is one which talks to me. Very loudly.

In fact, it’s screaming at me. It screams of lies, deception and much smoke and mirrors. The people who claim to be acting in the best interests of the people must know that the lies need to be stop. Or be stopped. And only a completely free and independent media fully committed to total transparency can do that.

* Source material from Awesome SA’s Awesome South Africa book.

Fred Hatman
Fred Hatman (AKA Howard Donaldson) knew he wanted to be newspaper journalist at age 13. He has worked as a reporter and sub-editor for the Daily News and Cape Times, both based in South Africa and Wimbledon News, Today, London Daily News, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror, all based in London .
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