23rd February 2024 12:52 pm
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Department of Communications to present “internet censorship” draft bill to parliament

It looks as if the government is pressing forward in passing the controversial Film and Publications Board Amendment Bill. Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, will tomorrow present the draft bill to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications.

The FPB bill, according to the department, seeks to strengthen the law regarding explicit and violent content, outlaw child pornography online and decriminalise the online distribution of adult content.

“We are witnessing a failure of self-regulation in certain sectors of the industry. Also, state regulation has its limitations within the industry,” Minister Muthambi reiterated recently.

“Therefore, a much more coordinated co-regulation model that provides for the involvement of industry and the government is required. Such a model will need to have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountability levels,” she added.

The bill has been on the receiving end of a lot of backlash from the public, freedom of speech activists and non-profit organisations such as Right2Know (R2K), who have called the bill an effective censorship on the free speech on the internet.

Minister Muthambi has continually defended the bill, “we need to make it clear to South Africans that this bill is not aimed at gagging the internet in South Africa. The Department of Communications is not seeking to control the internet, but safeguard minors and vulnerable persons in the best way possible,” Muthambi said.

The DA has said it intends to raise its objections to number of problematic clauses in the bill tomorrow.

“Of particular concern is the proposed imposition of fines up to R150 000 or imprisonment by a court of law for ‘knowingly distributing, in any electronic medium, including the internet and social networking sites, any film, game, or publication which advocates propaganda for war, incites violence, or advocates hate speech’, the party’s national spokesperson, Phumzile Van Damme wrote on the DA blog. 

“Such wide-ranging powers of censorship over all social media posts need to be carefully considered and worded in such a way that it would prevent it being abused by the government to censor, and curb free speech. A clear distinction must be made between free speech and hate speech as defined in the Constitution,” she added.

You can read the full draft bill script, here.


[Source – SA Government News Agency]

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