(MISA/IFEX) - On 1 September 2009, South Africa's Press Agency, SAPA, reported that The Films and Publications Amendment Bill, described by critics as deeply flawed and unconstitutional, has been signed into law. The measure was promulgated in the Government Gazette in the last week of August. When it was introduced in 2006, the media industry protested that it paved the way for pre-publication censorship and criminalised free expression.
Although a version was approved by Parliament, in January 2009 then-president Kgalema Motlanthe decided not to sign it into law, and referred it back to the legislature. Raymond Louw, deputy chair of the South Africa chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, said on 31 August that Parliament had not made any substantive changes to that version.
"We deplore the fact that the bill has been signed into law, because it will bring a range of problems for the media generally," he said.
Thabo Leshilo, head of the media freedom committee at the South African National Editors' Forum, said he had not seen a gazetted version of the act.
"We need to look at the published act, thereafter we will give a considered response," he said.
The department of home affairs introduced the bill partly in a bid to combat child pornography. Critics said however that it paved the way for pre-publication censorship, and that an exemption for newspapers which fell under the press ombudsman left more than 500 other newspapers and publications out in the cold. Critics also expressed concern at clauses aimed at limiting publication of propaganda for war, incitement to violence, and the depiction of sexual conduct. The incitement to violence clause, they said, could be used to curtail reporting on service delivery protests.
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