I’ve followed stories about the South African media landscape and internet freedom with interest and they are stories that are becoming urgently more relevant to regular South Africans.
The Film and Publication Board – an office of the Department of Communication – has introduced a Draft Internet Regulation Policy that aims to prevent children having access to porn online as well as the distribution of child porn online.
The problem is that the policy doesn’t do that. Instead, it effectively becomes a censorship board giving the FPB powers to remove content that has been shared online on international social media platforms (Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, Vine, Instagram).
Sign the petition at internetfreedom.co.za!
On top of that, they will require that anyone who posts content to these platforms should submit their content to the FPB for it to be classified and then they will charge us each individually for this service. Once the content has been classified, we would have to remove the original video and replace it with a version that includes the FPB’s logo. We would lose all the views, likes, and comments that the original video would have accumulated while waiting for classification – a blow to our country’s internet freedom.
I don’t know much about child pornographers, but I would imagine that they wouldn’t submit their content to a board for classification before they distribute it wherever they do.
The media landscape in South Africa is becoming increasingly more totalitarian, with President Zuma, criticising the media for covering acts of xenophobic violence that have cropped up recently. He went so far as to say that the media was making our country look bad for covering topics of national importance.
Our parliament was a shambles at the beginning of the year when in an attempt to keep the truth about what happened at our State of the Nation address from getting out to the public. Government turned on signal jammers so that our media representatives could not publish photos, video, or even tweets. I don’t know if it’s because of our strong economic ties to China, but I can’t help but feel that we are heading towards a government that wants to censor what information we have access to and I see this policy as the first step in that direction.
It’s because of this that I set up a website for members of the public to email messages of protest against the policy directly to the FPB and the members who are involved with it’s drafting. We might be able to put together enough messages so that when the FPB convenes a public consultation on Thursday at 17:00 in Newtown Johannesburg to discuss internet freedom, there will be no confusion when we say “Hands off our internet”.
The website is internetfreedom.co.za and it only takes a minute for a person to fill in their details and send off their message of protest.