South Africa

Emmanuelle and the Christian nutters

Christian groups in South Africa have decided to be outraged over the presence of late-night porn on public television and held a protest (via) outside the studios of E-TV on Saturday.

Members of Africa Christian Action, Christians for Truth and several other mission organizations and churches demanded the network remove pornography from its programming, pointing to clinics which link child sex abuse cases to pornography.

“We have had e-nough! Porn on free-to-air national TV is outrageous,” said Taryn Hodgson, international coordinator of the Christian Action Network, in a statement.

“There are many parentless homes in South Africa and many homes where children are not supervised as to what TV they are watching. R18 restrictions are not enough to prevent children from watching these films.”

Christian Action Network – a conservative umbrella organization mobilizing Christians to protest against pornography, abortion, and same-sex union in the country – demonstrated and prayed outside the e-TV studios in Cape Town Saturday morning. They claim - untruthfully - that there is a link between porn and sexual abuse.

Not surprisingly, E-TV has pointed out that there is no evidence that these films contribute to sexual crimes and that they were broadcasting the films in the appropriate time slot.

Christian groups are planning to hold protests outside the E-TV studios in Durban and Bloemfontein this month.

Backdoor Conservatism

Reporters Without Borders have joined the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), the Media Institute of Southern Africa-South Africa (MISA-SA) and the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) in urging the South African parliament to reject a bill proposed by the government that would open the way to censorship.

The Film and Publications Amendment Bill 2006 is currently being debated by the parliamentary subcommittee for Home Affairs before being submitted to the full parliament. Business Day has quite a good analysis of the issues surrounding it:

The bill discards the very carefully constructed balance between free speech and other rights contained in the original act, reached through extensive consultation 10 years ago. This act is based on the assumption that adults should be free to access any material they choose, with a carefully defined category of material being banned for possession and distribution (such as bestiality).

The bill seeks to reverse these gains and harks back to the Publications Act of 1974, which banned publications if they were considered to be indecent, obscene or offensive to public morals. This is dangerous stuff, and seems to be buoyed by a growing moral conservatism hiding under the guise of protecting women and children. The bill also bans publications on grounds that are far broader than what the constitution provides for, which has serious implications for the media and other publications.

The detailed issues and implications are thoroughly covered in the article. Go read it.

Flexible propaganda

South Africas public broadcaster, the SABC, has banned high-profile critics of the government from its programmes, fuelling claims of bias towards the ruling African National Congress. At least six political analysts have been blacklisted so far.

The decision followed several censorship rows that prompted accusations that the SABC had become a mouthpiece for the ANC, just as it was once a propaganda tool for the apartheid regime. It ditched a documentary critical of the president and refused to show images of a cabinet minister being booed during a speech.

The blacklist of commentators that producers are not allowed to use was drawn up by the head of news, Snuki Zikalala, an ANC member and former government spokesman who answers to a board appointed by an ANC-dominated parliamentary committee.

Death Threats in South Africa

According to the BBC, the South African Mail and Guardian published one of the cartoons on its international news page to illustrate a story about last weeks protests.

The papers editor, Ferial Haffajee, has been on the revceiving end of a series of threatening and abusive letters and text messages.

People have been phoning my mother and exercising pressure through her, Ms Haffajee told the BBC News website.

She said some groups had threatened to march on the newspapers offices in Johannesburg.

It displays a lack of tolerance that is nerve-wracking, she said.

Ms Haffajee said she felt she was being targeted personally because she is herself a Muslim.

There are people out there who feel it is their duty to remind me that there is a hereafter and I will be punished.

Also on Friday, South African Muslim activists won an interdict barring another paper, the Sunday Times, from printing the cartoons.

After the Mail and Guardian reprinted the cartoon, the Muslim organisation Jamiat-ul Ulama won a court interdict stopping the Sunday Times from doing the same.

We are aware of the sensitivities regarding the cartoons, and the editorial team was discussing whether these sensitivities should be given more weight than the right of non-Muslim readers to see the depictions that had caused huge offence in other parts of the world, a statement published by the Sunday Times said.

We declined to give an undertaking not to publish the cartoons, not because we were intent on publishing them, but because we strongly oppose the attempt by any group to edit or censor the newspaper, the statement said.

We regard this as a serious blow to the freedom of the press and have every intention of challenging the ruling when the matter returns to court, the statement concluded.

ANC: We don need no steenkin freedom of speech

The Mail and Guardian reports that the South African Governments proposed laws restricting the speech of civil servants, NGOs and journalists may be the thin edge of the wedge that threatens freedom in general according to Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon.

The governments proposals threaten to take South Africa back to the censorship of the apartheid era, Leon said. Media restrictions of even the mildest sort are a grave threat.

The danger is that the governments proposed laws restricting the speech of civil servants, NGOs and journalists might be the thin edge of the wedge that threatens freedom in general.

It is well past time that the ANC and the president learned to deal with vociferous criticism, Leon said