The SA National Editors' Forum is shocked at the action of the
parliamentary Select Committee on Social Services prohibiting the
public from attending a workshop in parliament to discuss the Films and
Publications Amendment Bill which contains clauses which directly
restrict media freedom and thus the public's freedom, according to a media release.

A few weeks ago when it announced the workshop, the committee said that it would be held in public, though the public would not be able to make representations. The media regarded it as totally appropriate and in accordance with democratic practice that the workshop discussions would be open to the public.

Suddenly on the afternoon of March 4, the media was informed that the meeting would be closed to the public. This prevents the media and other interested parties from viewing the proceedings and hearing how its representations and those from other civil society organisations and lawyers both commissioned by the committee and by interested parties are dealt with by the parliamentarians on the Select Committee.

Sanef regards this action by the committee as highly undemocratic and as striking at the core media freedom and freedom of expression rights in the Constitution.

In effect, the committee has adopted a process where the freedom of people and the media are to be dealt with by a parliamentary institution in secret — an intolerable situation.

The question arises what is it that the parliamentarians will say in private that cannot be said in public. The action also lends credence to the suspicion that an underlying aim of the Bill is to introduce media censorship.

Sanef condemns the committee's action and calls for the workshop to be opened to the public.


Issued by: SA National Editors' Forum (SANEF)
For more comment please contact:
Raymond Louw – SANEF Media Freedom Sub-Committee Chair: 011 646 8790 / 082 446 5155