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Media organisations welcome postponement of films and publications bill

(FXI/IFEX) - The following is a joint statement by FXI, MISA-South Africa and the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef):

Statement on Postponement of Films and Publications Amendment Bill

Three of South Africa's media organisations, which condemned a government proposal to amend the country's entertainment censorship laws because it would result in the imposition of pre-publication censorship on the country's news media, welcome the announcement by the cabinet that the Bill will be postponed to next year.

The organisations, 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) also welcome the cabinet's reiteration of its commitment to the principle of media freedom as enshrined in the Constitution.

The cabinet announced today that the Bill would not be rushed and would only be finalised next year. It stated that it had extensive consultations with the media industry, the latest as recent as Tuesday this week. As a result it had decided to extend the period for the finalisation of the bill to the next session of Parliament in 2007 to give the affected parties the opportunity to discuss all the policy issues that had arisen, which had created the perception that government intended to muzzle the media.

The media industry had protested that it had received no notice of the intention to introduce the legislation. The media's major complaint was that the amendment removes the exemption from the classification, or censorship, and other provisions of the Films and Publications Act which the print and broadcast media had had for more than 40 years. The removal meant that the media would be subject to Film and Publication Board pre-publication censorship.

The media had also complained that there had been no consultation in advance of the Bill being presented and severe time limits on making representations on the Bill.

The media emphasises that while objecting to the Bill it fully supports the main objective of preventing the spread of child pornography, the access of children to pornography, the exploitation of children and child abuse.

Freedom of Expression Institute

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