The SA National Editors' Forum is deeply disappointed by the decision
of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in the National Assembly to
call for  public submissions on the Films and Publications Amendment
Bill (B27-2006) without holding the consultations with stakeholders that were promised
by the Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad and the Ministry of Home
Affairs in October, according to a release.

Sanef believes that the amendments which propose the removal of the exemptions granted to the media 45 years ago from the Films and Publications Act will bring about pre-publication censorship and other impediments to
media freedom.

It is, in Sanef's view, an egregious and faulty piece of legislation about  which there should have been principled and intensive dialogue before legal drafting began.

In October the Bill was postponed to enable proper consultation to take place and Sanef subsequently requested the Home Affairs Ministry to withdraw the Bill to allow for effective and substantive negotiation.

Two short meetings with the Home Affairs Department have been held with Sanef but they dealt with very limited items related to the Bill and cannot be described as even approaching consultation.

Now the Portfolio Committee has called for public submissions on the Bill. This will enable “last ditch'' protests against issues raised in the Bill but these cannot be regarded as consultation with all the stakeholders. The
committee calls for written comments on the Bill by April 26 and for those wishing to make verbal presentations to the committee to request time on May 2 and 3.

Last year Sanef and other stakeholders made strong representations to the portfolio committee and/or the ministry against the censorship provisions in the Bill. As the Bill remains unchanged, it is clear that no attention has been paid to them. Sanef will make further written and verbal submissions.

Democratic South Africa¹s founding story is that of substantive, principled and detailed consultation. Such an approach underpinned the passage of South Africa's Constitution. That Constitution contains express protection of media freedom which Sanef believes is violated by the Bill. Should the Bill be passed in its present form, there is every likelihood that its constitutionality will be challenged in court.

Ferial Haffajee
Chairperson, Sanef
082 924 3643

Raymond Louw
Chairperson, Sanef Media Freedom Committee
011 646 8790- 082 446 5155