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Media freedom organisations welcome Cabinet decision to discuss censorship bill

(FXI/MISA/IFEX) - The following is an 8 August 2006 joint statement by FXI, MISA-SA, and the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef):

The three major media organisations that protested the decision of the South African Home Affairs Department to repeal the exemption of the print and broadcast media from the provisions of the Films and Publications Act - and thus laying the media open to pre-publication censorship and other restrictions - welcomes the statement by the Cabinet that it has no intention to "muzzle the media in any way and that this position will not change".

The organisations are the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef), the SA Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa-SA) and the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI).

At its meeting in Cape Town yesterday, the Cabinet approved for submission to Parliament the Films and Publications Amendment Bill 2006, which proposes the repeal of the exemption of the media from the Act, but directed that relevant government departments engage with the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and other parties to discuss their concerns about the Bill. The Cabinet also stated: "We would like to give the assurance that all views will be considered before the Bill is passed".

The media organisations noted that the Cabinet took the view that the Bill must be published in its current form and that public discourse must be allowed before the Bill is promulgated.

While acknowledging that the government wishes to pursue customary parliamentary procedures in dealing with the Bill, the three organisations reiterate that the Bill, with its pre-publication censorship provisions and other restrictions, is unacceptable and is highly damaging to South Africa's reputation as a country that upholds freedom of expression and freedom of the media. Parliament is urged to deal with the issues as a matter of urgency.

Media Institute of Southern Africa

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