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So this is democracy? State of media freedom in southern Africa
Media Institute of Southern
May 03, 2012
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2011 passing of the Protection of Information Bill (POIB) in South
Africa aptly captures the rest of media freedom in southern Africa
during the year under review. Contemporary experience in the region
shows that governments, including those deemed to be progressive
- like South Africa - are increasingly becoming secretive,
hindering access to information and expressing more fervent desire
to exercise political oversight of the media.
The region symbolism
of the POIB development, which comes against the backdrop of a proposal
by the ruling (South Africa) African National Congress (ANC) to
institute a Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT), is not impotent. As was
highlighted on these pages in the 2010 report, "threats and
harassment of media workers in South Africa (are) particularly damaging
and (resonate) far beyond (the country as its is) a leading economic
and political force in the region as a whole."
therefore, is that "what happens in South Africa is easily
a justification for similar policies and actions in other countries
in the region and elsewhere." Hence, with a policy conference
coming in 2012, followed bay an elective conference in the same
year, how the ANC defends its MAT proposal and also respond to the
public's criticisms of the POIB will be of key interest.
But, the fragility
of any democracy - certainly in the case of Southern Africa -
is also as a result of severe weaknesses within other democratic
institutions such as the judiciary, legislative assemblies, opposition
political parties, civil society organisations and the media, whether
sate owned, public or private.
have, for instance, allowed some governments to disrespect the rule
of law with reckless abandon. Consequently, the work of the media
in countries that do this has been profoundly affected as evidenced
by, amongst other tactics, arbitrary arrests, detention without
trial and the instigation of lawsuits that have the clear objective
of bankrupting targeted media organisations and have them focus
their energies elsewhere outside their core business. It does not
help either that certain judiciaries and legislatures in the region
appear to be in cold complicit with respective regimes targeting
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