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    South African media freedom under threat

    Nzimande: SA media is threat to democracy

    STAFF REPORTER AND SAPA | JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - Aug 02 2010 09:58

    South Africa's media posed a threat to democracy, South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande said in a report in the Times newspaper on Monday.

    Expressing strong support for a media tribunal, Nzimande said journalists were always "looking for bad news out of the ANC and its alliance partners".

    He was speaking at the party's 89th anniversary celebrations in Rustenburg in the North West on Sunday.

    Nzimande's comments came days after the ruling African National Congress released a discussion document entitled "Media transformation, ownership and diversity", which proposes the setting up of a "Media Appeals Tribunal" to make the media "accountable".

    The document questions the efficiency of the self-regulatory press ombudsman, which Nzimande described as "toothless and useless".

    "We know the importance of free media because it was the communists that went to jail for that," said Nzimande, who is also the minister of higher education and training.

    "But we want a media tribunal that will hold journalists accountable. If there is one serious threat to our democracy, it is a media that is accountable to itself."

    'Imposition' on media freedom
    Meanwhile, ombudsman Joe Thloloe warned on Friday that a tribunal would be an "imposition" on media freedom.

    "Any system imposed from outside the press itself will be an imposition and in violation of the Constitution," Thloloe told the South African Press Association.Thloloe said he approached the ANC about a month ago to try to get clarity on talk of a tribunal, which the ANC said would complement the role of the press council and press ombudsman.

    "I was saying we were getting two different positions. The one, from Polokwane, that there will be an investigation into the possibility of a media tribunal ... But also, another position, coming from the alliance very strongly, is a view that a tribunal should be established.

    "I went there to ask, where are we standing, is there going to be in an investigation or is it [the tribunal] going ahead?

    "[I was told] they are going to recommend that Parliament will do an investigation," said Thloloe.

    He said he would be "happy" to participate in an investigation but expressed doubts about its intentions.

    "We are very happy to participate in any investigation, but what worries us are the people who have already made up their minds."

    Business Day editor Peter Bruce wrote on Monday that he would not be attending a meeting with the ANC, scheduled for Tuesday.

    "I just don't want to be a part of any meetings whose object is to make my country less of a democracy. If I go, and if others editors go, it will merely legitimise what the ANC want to do anyway -- they'll be able to say they 'consulted' with the media. But not, at least, with me. This is not Vichy," wrote Bruce. - Sapa

    Source : Nzimande: SA media is threat to democracy - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

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    Press Council warns against media tribunal

    MAIL & GUARDIAN REPORTER - Aug 02 2010 17:29


    Chairperson of the Press Council of South Africa, Raymond Louw, on Monday took issue with a call by the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP) for a statutory media appeals tribunal.

    In a statement, Louw said he was "appalled" by this call, and said that the "manner in which this call is being made and the indications ... that have been given of the objectives appear to be a clear violation of the Constitution in relation to the promotion of freedom of expression and media freedom".

    The imposing of such a tribunal on the press has "nothing to do with promoting press freedom but everything to do with the way the press reports on the conduct of governance, including the conduct of Cabinet ministers and other senior officials of the party".

    The statement also took aim at "a startling ignorance about what goes on in the press ombudsman's office".

    The full statement by the Press Council of South Africa:

    Statement by the Press Council chairman Raymond Louw on call for Media Appeals Tribunal.

    As chairman of the South African Press Council which administers the Press Ombudsman system of press self-regulation, I am appalled that the South African Communist Party and the African National Congress are calling for the institution of a statutory media appeals tribunal ``to strengthen media freedom and accountability.'' The manner in which this call is being made and the indications, as far as they go, that have been given of the objectives appear to be a clear violation of the constitution in relation to the promotion of freedom of expression and media freedom.

    The various reasons for setting up the tribunal offered by office bearers of the two parties and contained in the document put out by the ANC for discussion at its national general council in September-- ``Media transformation, ownership and diversity'', are quite clear why they want to impose it on the press. It has nothing to do with promoting press freedom but everything to do with the way the press reports on the conduct of governance including the conduct of cabinet ministers and other senior officials of the party. They don't want the public to be told of their poor governance, corruption by ``tenderpreneurs'' and lavish life-styles. They want the press to report the African National Congress's version of what is happening.

    This emerges clearly in the discussion document. It states: ``Our objectives therefore are to vigorously communicate the ANC's outlook and values (developmental state, collective rights, values of caring and sharing community, solidarity, ubuntu, non sexism, working together) versus the current mainstream
    media's ideological outlook (neo-liberalism, a weak and passive state, and overemphasis on individual rights, market fundamentalism, etc).''
    The statements also display a startling ignorance about what goes on in the Press Ombudsman's office. The Communist Party states that the ombudsman's office is made up of people from the media, who decide on complaints.

    Indeed, the ombudsman is a senior journalist. It is an essential requirement for a person adjudicating on the conduct of the media and journalism to be well versed in the methods and practice of journalism and a senior journalist fills that role.
    But there is strong public representation in that office. When the Ombudsman conducts a hearing, he sits with two people, one a journalist and the other a public representative. Indeed, there are six public representatives and six journalists available for hearings by the ombudsman and the Appeals Panel.

    The Appeals Panel -- which is engaged when either the complainant or the defending newspaper appeals against the Ombudsman's finding -- is chaired by a non-journalist. He is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal and when he holds a hearing he sits with one public and one press representative.

    Thus to suggest that the office and proceedings are conducting by ``people from the media'' is false and is being propagated mischievously.

    Another complaint by the politicians is that the ombudsman's office is ``inadequate'' without explaining what they mean by that, except to imply in some of their statements that they want punitive prison sentences and fines meted out to journalists and publishers.

    In regard to penalties, the Ombudsman imposes what is regarded by the media as one embodying serious sanction. If found wanting, a paper can be called upon to publish a correction and an apology prominently as well as the strictures of the ombudsman or appeals panel.
    This punishment strikes at the heart of a newspaper's operations. It tells readers that the newspaper was not only inaccurate but that it behaved unprofessionally or even dishonestly. Nothing damages a newspaper more than a finding against its credibility and trustworthiness. If the public lose its trust in a newspaper in regard to its methods of operation and accuracy it can go out of business, thus enduring the ultimate sanction.

    The SACP talks of accountability. The public accountability described above is what publishers and journalists fear most -- that which results in the withdrawal of support from the paper.

    The ANC and the Communist Party, despite their having voted for the Films and Publications Act, also forget that the ombudsman's office has been given legislative recognition. This Act exempts mainstream newspapers that subscribe to the Press Code from some of the provisions of the legislation.

    The irresponsibility of the ANC in its castigation of the Press Council is breathtaking in its reliance on fiction. On several occasions it complained -- and the complainant on one occasion was no less than Kgalema Motlanthe, now Deputy President -- that the Press Ombudsman did not respond to its complaints. The ANC was asked to provide a list of the complaints that had been treated in that way.

    Finally, after much badgering, the ANC produced one complaint. However, the party did not apologise when it was told that not only had the complaint been dealt with but that the finding was in favour of the ANC.

    Some of the ANC's ministers and leading personalities -- including ANC Youth League President Julius Malema, the league's spokesman Floyd Shivambu, Kwa-Zulu Natal Premier Dr Kweli Mkhize, and ANC Treasurer-General Dr Mathews Phosa, - are using the Press Ombudsman to voice their complaints and at least one former minister, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi (Public Service and Administration), expressed her entire satisfaction with the manner in which her complaint had been dealt with. Even former ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte, who was so articulate in branding the Ombudsman's office ineffectual has laid complaints and in one case a newspaper apologised to her. Even Deputy President Motlanthe has laid a complaint, though he later withdrew it. Several of these cases, and others, have resulted in rulings in favour of state institutions or ANC politicians.

    In 2007 the New Zealand Press Council conducted a world wide survey and listed 87 countries with press councils. One of its major findings was that 86% of them adopted the self-regulatory method which has been adopted in South Africa. The same percentage believed the most effective punishment for newspapers when they breached professional and ethical codes was to order them to publish a correction and/or an apology with the prominence of positioning decided by the council. And 82% conducted their operations on the basis of a code and a complaints process.

    South Africa's Press Council operates in similar fashion and journalists believe that with such a large number of other Press Councils in the world adopting these standards South Africa's current practice of dealing with breaches of ethical and professional standards appear to have majority approval among the democratic states.

    Source :
    Press Council warns against media tribunal - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

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    Media freedom under spotlight as reporter arrested

    FIENIE GROBLER | JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - Aug 04 2010 15:19

    As editors met on Wednesday to discuss the "horrors" of an African National Congress (ANC) onslaught against media freedom, the Hawks arrested a Sunday Times journalist who wrote an article critical of the national police chief on the weekend.

    A day after national police commissioner General Bheki Cele called Mzilikazi wa Afrika a "very shady journalist", he was marched out of his offices at the Avusa building in Rosebank, Johannesburg, just as editors emerged from a meeting about media freedom.

    Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley, who attended the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) meeting, said the paper's lawyers had been unable to get a clear answer from the police on the charges against him and where he was being held.

    "I am deeply concerned at the fact that a journalist can be arrested and held at an undisclosed location in a country where the rule of law ought to apply," Hartley said in a statement posted on the Times Live website.

    "He was arrested by a large number of policemen in an operation which was clearly designed to intimidate, and I can only conclude that this was the true motive for what took place today [Wednesday]."

    Hartley said Wa Afrika was one of the authors of a story published on Sunday about the rental of new police headquarters at the cost of R500-million, allegedly without following the correct tender proceedings.

    "I hope, for the sake of our country, that he was not arrested on spurious charges in order to punish him for what he wrote," said Hartley.

    Initially, the Times Live reported that Wa Afrika was arrested for the possession of what police claimed was a fraudulent letter of resignation from Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza to President Jacob Zuma.

    "Wa Afrika was seized by police, who became involved in a screaming match with senior editors about whether photographers could take pictures or not," reported Times Live.
    Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi said he would face charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice.

    Criticism
    The arrest came a day after Cele criticised Wa Africa at a press conference, where he called the Sunday Times article "incorrect and worse, misleading".

    Cele told reporters in Pretoria that he did not sign a lease agreement -- only a needs assessment.

    "That one is a very shady journalist, very shady. He was expelled from the Sunday Times. Why did they bring him back?" asked Cele.

    Asked if he would consider legal action against the publication and the journalists, he replied: "Time will tell," but added that he had not yet consulted with his lawyers.

    Cele was referring to a case in 2004, when the Sunday Times dismissed Wa Afrika for allegedly trying to help a Travelgate-accused leave the country while he knew she had been arrested in the Parliamentary fraud scandal.

    At that stage, then-editor Mondli Makhanya said while the award-winning Wa Afrika was "one of the finest journalists to have worked for this newspaper", his actions had caused damage.

    "Our relationship of trust with our readers is paramount and no damage to this trust can be tolerated," Makhanya said in a statement issued in 2004.

    'Every single mistake will be used against us'
    On Wednesday, Makhanya, who is now the chairperson of Sanef, cautioned editors and journalists that the ANC would use mistakes by journalists as ammunition to push through the Media Appeals Tribunal.

    Sanef media-freedom expert Raymond Louw said several pieces of legislation, including the Protection of Information Bill, and the proposed tribunal, posed serious threats to media freedom.

    "I think one should look at the climate in which this Bill has been brought in ... It becomes a horrifying list of repressive acts against the media by the government," Louw told the discussion.

    "... This poses all kind of horrors in the gathering of information."

    Makhanya said there was a "mobilisation against the media", not only on a political level but also among communities on the ground.

    He warned it was likely that the government would pass the Media Appeals Tribunal for print media through Parliament by the end of the year.

    Academic Anton Harber said that journalists needed to realise the government would use any mistakes in the media as excuses to go ahead with statutory regulation.

    "We must know, every single mistake will be used against us," said Harber.

    Avusa public affairs editor Thabo Leshilo said the media needed to realise its power and that it should act responsibly.

    "Self-regulation requires, when we make mistakes, we do corrections prominently," said Leshilo.

    In support of a media tribunal
    The ANC Youth League came out strongly in support of a media appeals tribunal in a statement released on Wednesday.

    "The [African National Congress Youth League] is totally in support of the establishment of a media tribunal which will adjudicate over wrong reporting by all media and ensure that they are taken to task for falsifying stories, sensationalism and spreading lies that seek to undermine the integrity of individuals and organisations," a statement read on Wednesday.

    The ANC wants an independent statutory body accountable to Parliament to deal with complaints against newspapers, instead of only using the press ombudsman, who currently deals with complaints.

    It released a discussion document, entitled "Media transformation, ownership and diversity", last week, as a follow-up to a resolution taken at the ANC's Polokwane conference in December 2007 that a proposal to set up a tribunal for print media be investigated. -- Sapa

    Source : Media freedom under spotlight as reporter arrested - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

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    I openly admit my utter ignorance to modern day S. Africa politics, but I still feel the need to comment:

    I did not get past this:

    South Africa's media posed a threat to democracy, South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande said

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    It gets even worse - he is the Minister of Education.

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    Prosecutor drops case against Sunday Times reporter

    JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA Aug 05 2010 14:56

    The prosecutor in the case against Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika on Thursday said there was no case against him, the newspaper's lawyer said.

    "The prosecutor has said he [Wa Afrika] has no case to answer and that they can't prosecute," Sunday Times lawyer Eric van den Berg told the South African Press Association (Sapa) by phone.

    This was said at a meeting between Van den Berg, two prosecutors from the Hawks police unit and the control prosecutor from Nelspruit that took place around lunchtime.

    "He should be released immediately but the police refused to release him," said Van den Berg.

    "I don't quite know how they are going to carry on, but they are going to carry on."

    TheTimesLive website quoted a prosecutor, Mr Erwee, as saying he had declined to prosecute Wa Afrika "on the grounds that he has no case to answer".

    Van den Berg said Wa Afrika was currently at the office of the Organised Crime Unit in Nelspruit.

    "We saw him this morning, he was fine. He is just feeling very tired. We are going to a meeting with the Organised Crime Unit now and we'll see what comes from that," said Van den Berg.

    He said it was not clear what the charges against Wa Afrika would have stemmed from.Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi said on Wednesday he would face charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice.

    Reports suggested this could be related to his being in possession of a fraudulent resignation letter by Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza.

    "I'm not sure if the charges were him being in possession [of the letter] or him being the author," said Van den Berg.

    Zondi said he had no knowledge of the latest development.

    "I don't know about that," he told Sapa.

    Wa Afrika was arrested outside the Sunday Times office on Wednesday by members of the Hawks special police unit. He was the author of a report critical of national police chief General Bheki Cele on Sunday. - Sapa

    Source : Prosecutor drops case against Sunday Times reporter - Mail & Guardian Online: The smart news source

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    At least in SA, media freedom can be under threat. Unlike in the LOS.

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    Yes, that is why is such a concern. Free press and an independent judiciary are the only things that are keeping the current SA government honest. At the moment they are both under threat.

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    ANC 'can do whatever it likes' with info Bill input

    Source : ANC 'can do whatever it likes' with info Bill input - News - Mail & Guardian Online


    The office of the speaker of Parliament has dismissed concerns about the legitimacy of the ANC's new parliamentary consultation process on the Protection of State Information Bill.

    "There is no confusion," spokesperson Sukhthi Naidoo said after opposition MPs and civil society challenged the ANC's decision to invite new submissions without setting up a multiparty committee to hear them.

    Naidoo said the ANC, or any other party, could do "whatever it likes" in terms of inviting public input on the Bill.

    She pointed out that the Bill had not been withdrawn from Parliament, but that the debate on it had merely been postponed.

    "For us, it is a simple scheduling issue. There is no sense of what is going to happen next."

    Three options
    Naidoo said there were three options on how to proceed.

    The Bill could be referred anew to a parliamentary committee for deliberation; tabled for debate by an MP, with amendments; or it could be put to the National Assembly as is and rejected.

    Opposition MPs reacted with outrage on Tuesday after ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga invited interest groups to make submissions on the state secrecy Bill to a task team of ruling party MPs.

    His office said it would "afford particularly individuals and formations, which are yet to have a say on the Bill, an opportunity to do so".

    CONTINUES BELOW


    Motshekga withdrew the Bill from the National Assembly programme for debate last week, a day before it was expected to be passed, amid reports of a split in senior party echelons about the legislation.

    It encountered a wall of opposition when it was first introduced, with critics calling it a return to apartheid-era repression.

    Constitutional Court challenge
    The opposition saw the ANC's call for submissions from previously silent quarters as an attempt to counteract continued resistance to the Bill, including threats of a Constitutional Court challenge.

    The Right2Know Campaign, at the forefront of protest against the legislation, said the ANC process seemed intended as a sweetheart exercise.

    "I think we understand that quite clearly there is not really an appetite to change the Bill, but we must not allow this process to be stage-managed," the group's co-ordinator Murray Hunter said.

    The campaign wrote to the speaker's office on Thursday, demanding clarity on how the renewed consultation and any potential amendments would be handled.

    "We are ... of the view that while the ANC, as well as any other political party, has the right to solicit opinion, it should not do so to the exclusion or substitution of a proper parliamentary process," the group wrote.

    'Garner further public opinion'
    "We would submit that the Bill needs to be referred to a properly constituted parliamentary portfolio or ad hoc committee whose task it would then be to garner further public opinion on behalf of Parliament as a democratic institution."

    Asked whether the speaker's office was responding to the letter, Naidoo pointed out that Parliament was in recess.

    In the meanwhile, the clash between the opposition and the ANC on the Bill continued as Democratic Alliance MP Dene Smuts tackled Motshekga for reportedly saying that if the Constitutional Court were to pronounce on the legislation, this would violate the separation of powers.

    "The Constitutional Court is there precisely to decide when law or conduct is inconsistent with the Constitution," Smuts said.

    She added that Motshekga was "only parroting cleverer and more senior ANC office bearers" -- a reference to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe's remark last month that members of the court were acting in opposition to the government and seeking to arrest its work.

    'Desperate' measures
    Motshekga's office said Smuts was lying and that the DA was "a desperate party that has nothing more to add to the process".

    "The chief only lamented a tendency amongst those who disagree with Bills before Parliament to undermine the institution's constitutional powers through threats that they will challenge in the Constitutional Court if things don't go their way," his spokesman Moloto Mothapo said.

    He said such critics were creating a situation where Parliament legislated with a "Constitutional Court gun" to its head. -- Sapa

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moonraker
    I openly admit my utter ignorance to modern day S. Africa politics, but I still feel the need to comment:

    I did not get past this:
    Quote Originally Posted by BKKBoet
    South Africa's media posed a threat to democracy, South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande said in a report in the Times newspaper on Monday.
    Funnily enough neither did I...but you posted it first!

    Saying that I've many friends and acquaintances who have lived in SA and they insist the LOS is an absolute picnic compared with their experiences in SA?

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Bold Rodney View Post


    Saying that I've many friends and acquaintances who have lived in SA and they insist the LOS is an absolute picnic compared with their experiences in SA?
    quite correct.
    south africa is just another zimbabwe in the making.
    the downhill side is quite frightening.

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    Black Tuesday: Secrecy Bill passed in Parliament





    The National Assembly voted in the Protection of Information Bill on Tuesday with 229 votes.
    CONTINUES BELOW There were two abstentions and a 107 votes against it.

    The Bill was adopted by majority vote after a division was called by the opposition Democratic Alliance.

    All opposition parties present in the House voted against the measure, while hundreds of black-clad activists protested against it outside the gates of Parliament and elsewhere in the country.

    Editors who attended the parliamentary session staged a walk-out after the Bill was voted in.

    The hotly contested Bill was first introduced in 2008 by then-intelligence minster Ronnie Kasrils.

    The Bill was meant to replace a piece of apartheid-era legislation that governed the classification of state secrets. Kasrils sought to create legislation that would protect state secrets but also uphold the constitutional principal of transparent governance. It included a provision that would allow whistleblowers to leak information that was in the public interest without fear of reprisal.

    According to Kasrils, this version of the Bill was never tabled in Parliament and was scrapped by ruling party representatives at the committee stage after he resigned from government in September 2008.

    When the Bill reappeared, its provisions were even more draconian than before. The new draft sought to create a law that would allow any organ of state, from the largest government department down to the smallest municipality, to classify any document as secret and set out harsh penalties of up to 25 years in jail for whistleblowers.

    It came under heavy fire from all quarters of civil society, who said it would obstruct the free flow of information, usher in a new era of secrecy and pose a threat to democracy.

    Media and civil organisations insist that the Bill should include a public interest defence, as enshrined in state secrecy legislation in Canada. Such a defence would enable journalists and others who published classified information under pain of prison to argue in mitigation that they had done so in the public interest.

    In September, the ruling party agreed to withdraw the Bill and to start a process of public participation to address some of the concerns that had been raised. The move was welcomed by civil organisations and the media but as the months passed it became clear that no real attempt at public participation had been made.

    Instead, the Bill made a sudden reappearance on the parliamentary programme and state officials went on the offensive, with State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele claiming that groups opposing the Bill were "local proxies of foreign spies".

    The DA called the consultation process a "farce" saying the ANC had only consulted in five of the eight provinces under its control. Consultations were still going ahead the night before the Bill went to Parliament. In Mangaung, 100 residents turned up for the hearing but the ANC MP who was meant to conduct the hearing failed to appear. Instead, fliers about the Bill were handed out, a choir entertained the crowd and then food was served.

    Kasrils condemned Cwele's statements as "disgraceful" and said such "inflammatory statements" would encourage members of the intelligence services to "adopt a mindset already noted for excessive secrecy, exaggerated fears and paranoia".

    Shortly before his death earlier this year, struggle stalwart Kader Asmal urged Parliament to take the Bill "back to the drawing board" and urged South Africans to join him in rejecting the legislation.

    "It is unsatisfactory to expect the Constitutional Court to do the work that Parliament should be doing. I feel that the executive has not given sufficient attention to the constitutional provisions and the way that the limitation of this right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justifiable in a democratic society," he wrote.

    Sources within Parliament say that, despite protest from media and civil groups from around the country, the passing of the Bill is a foregone conclusion and that it may become law before the end of the year.

    The Bill will now go to National Council of Provinces and then back to the National Assembly before the president signs it and it gets gazetted.

    If this is the case, those who oppose the Bill would need to challenge it in the Constitutional Court. -- Additional reporting by Sapa

    Source : Black Tuesday: Secrecy Bill passed in Parliament - News - Mail & Guardian Online

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    ANC outraged over censored Wiki page

    2011-11-23 18:52


    Lauren Hess, News24



    Cape Town - The ANC said on Wednesday that "censorship" done to their page on Wikipedia is "outright vandalism" and uncivilised.

    The changes to the page, which shows pieces of information about alleged corruption within the party blacked out, were made following the passing of the controversial protection of state information bill on Tuesday.

    Party spokesperson Keith Khoza said: "It's conduct that it not consistent with a civilised... society.

    "How does that assist any cause or anybody to tamper with information?"

    Wikipedia allows any internet user to edit or change their pages.

    "Interfering with information undermines the very need of [information providers]," Khoza said.

    He said that the party wanted whatever information was on the page to be restored, even if it showed the ANC in a negative light.

    Civil society organisations and members of the media reacted with outrage following the passing of the bill on Tuesday. They promised that they would engage in acts of civil disobedience and would go to the Constitutional Court to have a public interest clause put into the bill.

    Source : ANC outraged over censored Wiki page| News24

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    Quote Originally Posted by BKKBoet View Post

    Party spokesperson Keith Khoza said: "It's conduct that it not consistent with a civilised... society.

    "How does that assist any cause or anybody to tamper with information?"
    Absolutely f%$*ing priceless.

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    I confess to lack of knowledge about South African politics too. But I have seen some report on this.

    If anything like this law brings Blacks and Whites together in protest, SA may have a future.

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    And here we see why democracy in the modern world does not work.

    The term comes from the word Greek: δημοκρατία – (dēmokratía) "rule of the people"
    My arse.

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    Last updated: November 27, 2011 2:20 pm
    Jail for UAE democracy activists

    By Camilla Hall in Abu Dhabi and Simeon Kerr in Dubai


    In a case that has sparked widespread criticism from international human rights groups, five pro-democracy activists in the United Arab Emirates have been sentenced to jail after being found guilty of charges including insulting the state’s rulers.
    Ahmed Mansour, a blogger, who faced additional charges including inciting acts which undermine state security, was handed a three-year jail term, at the federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.


    Four other men – Nasser bin Ghaith, a lecturer at the Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, and online activists Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul-Khaleq and Hassan Ali al-Khamis – who were charged with insulting the leadership, received two year sentences.
    The five men, some of whom also signed a petition to expand democratic rights in the United Arab Emirates, have been in custody since April. The UAE has seen little of the unrest that has spread to other parts of the Middle East, though it has clamped down since the petition was signed by more than 100 people.
    “I’m disappointed,” says Mohammed al-Roken, a lawyer for the defence. “I was hoping for an acquittal.”
    The defendants have no right to appeal the ruling, though observers have suggested that they may receive a pardon from Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE president, at a later date. The president on Sunday announced the freeing of over 500 prisoners to coincide with national day, the 40th anniversary of the UAE’s independence.
    The presiding judge also ruled that UAEHewar.net, a website that hosted some of the alleged online posts, be shut down permanently.
    The posts, which the defendants denied making, included criticism of several senior officials, such as Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s influential crown prince.
    In a state where the federation’s seven ruling families are held inhigh esteem, many Emiratis take exception to open criticism of their leaders.
    The health of the five men, who have been on a hunger strike for more than two weeks, “is deteriorating and they’ve lost a lot of weight,” according to Mr al-Roken. The men chose not to attend the hearing on the basis that they were not receiving a fair trial, though their lawyers were present.
    Khalifa al-Nuami, a relative of Nasser bin Ghaith, was the only family member to attend the hearing.
    “It’s a great shock,” said Mr al-Nuami. “I’m not doubting the law but there were some serious flaws in the judicial process.” The families are hoping for a pardon, he said.
    Mr al-Nuami was later attacked by pro-government protesters who had gathered outside the court room, witnesses said.
    “The trial itself was fundamentally impaired,” said Samer Muscati, a researcher for Human Rights Watch who attended the trial. “So we weren’t expecting anything different from the verdict.”

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by BKKBoet View Post
    Yes, that is why is such a concern. Free press and an independent judiciary are the only things that are keeping the current SA government honest. At the moment they are both under threat.
    Tick, tick, tick.

    Anyone foolish enough to stil buy the liberal idea that democracy is for everybody ought to be certified.

    I used to believe that crap. I used to argue the case for SA being 'different'.

    Until I spent a year there last year.

    Those that live there day in day out don't see such a great difference. Boil a frog by starting off with cold water. Leave for a few years and return, The deterioration is stark.

    It's a case of time to deteriorate the institutions and infrastructure that had been established.

    Black Africans (yes, as opposed to white Africans. Funny that, the world finds it hard to think that Africans are not only black. As opposed to Australians.) don't build, they consume. When it's finished they sit around and bitch, then find someone to blame. Soon to be followed by the standard African 'strong man' that rapes and kills them.


    Amandhla.
    Last edited by FlyFree; 27-11-2011 at 10:24 PM.

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