Tomorrow could mark a turning point in the history of the New South Africa: on Tuesday November 22 2011, parliament is to vote on the controversial Protection of Information Bill (POIB) despite the protests.
An “all thumbs up verdict” in my humble opinion would mean a first step towards the dismantling of the precious democracy so many people fought and died for.
I am not over-dramatizing the situation. Stifling the media and putting laws in place to control the press is often the first sign that a country going tits up. From the moment a government starts tampering with one of the four pillars of democracy, of which the media happens to be one, it shows that it does not care so much for democracy. Take Zimbabwe.
“But the Protection of Information Bill is not about hiding information, it is about protecting it,” a spokes person said this morning in Cape Talk radio, adding that the media in this regard has not treated the so-called secrecy bill in a fair manner.
Give me a break. In the land of politics “hiding” and “protecting” can be considered one and the same thing. Take Mac Maharaj. Just before the weekend kicked in, the ANC’s spokesperson sought to protect his own interests by making sure last weekend’s Mail & Guardian page 2 appeared with massive black boxes, apartheid style, hiding his dirty laundry.
With a growing culture of splurging, overspending, misspending, fraud, and corruption – combined with a dual-epidemic of Sticky Finger Syndrome (SFD) and Tenderitis – a free media apparatus in South Africa is crucial to keep the government on its toes.
Why you ask? Take corruption and wasteful expenditures. The millions that are disappearing each year are taz payers money. If you are a tax payer in South Africa, than it is YOUR hard earned cash we are talking about. Don’t you want to know what happens to it, and how is spent? If so, that is where we journalists come in.
I am sure that you, one of the 6 million South African tax payers, are paying your dues to make this country a better place in one way or another. I am equally sure that you are NOT giving away 25% to 40% of your paycheck – and 14% of everything you purchase – to pay for the small fortunes some ministers are spending on hotel rooms, second homes and spa visits. Well, newsflash: you are! (among other things)
In the first eight months of 2010, the government allegedly squandered more than R1-billion of taxpayers’ money on luxury vehicles, expensive hotels, banquets, and advertising. This year was even worse.
Your money, including the cash that has gone awol, should go to the disadvantaged members of our society, people who depend on government support in the form of education, health care and grants for their day-to-day survival.
If the media are no longer allowed to freely investigate and write about these and other issues, including dodgy business deals, tenders, and political connections (from what I can gather the government at any given time can decide which information was supposed to remain ‘secret’), YOU (the member of society) will simply never know what has happened with the money YOU have earned – or deserve.
In other words: the fight against the Protection of Information Bill is not a fight of us media practitioners. It is NOT about OUR right to write. It is in the first place about YOUR right to know.
Please make your voice heard tomorrow, which has been dubbed as Black Tuesday. Please wear black.
For more information: Right2KNow Campaign