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Yesterday the African National Congress shoved a big fat middle finger in the face of democracy and all of those who died, bled, cried, fought and suffered for a free country with among other things a free press Look, I am not going to talk much about yesterday. By now pretty much everything has been said about the day that will go down in history as “Black Tuesday”. I have written two blogs about it, which you will find here and here. Here are some pictures though, to show you what went down in Cape Town yesterday. Enjoy. PS: If you for some reason like my pictures and want to use them for something, please don’t be a douche by ripping them off my blog. It would make you a thief as these are my images. So please ask first. 

 

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The ANC giveth, the ANC taketh it away


I woke up with an uneasy feeling in my stomach this morning. On November 22 1995, South Africa was celebrating the first draft of South Africa’s new constitution. A constitution incorporating rights like media freedom. Sixteen years later, it is Black Tuesday. This afternoon the South African Parliament will cast their votes for the Protection of Information Bill (POIB).

An “all thumbs up verdict” would mean a first step towards the dismantling of the precious democracy so many people fought and died for.

What a way to celebrate such memorable occasion.

The more I think about it, the more angry I get. In the process, a couple of tears have bitten the dust since my alarm clock went off at voetsek o’clock (I tend to do that when angry).

I have not done any work today. I just can’t put my head to it. The thought that these so-called freedom fighters of the ANC intend to bulldozer one of the four pillars of democracy – media freedom and access to information – makes me sick to my stomach.

What did not help, was a story in Beeld. The report stated that MPs will be forced to vote along party lines and that their votes will be checked. In other words, it is not only media freedom that will be given a firm kick in the groin.

The freedom to choose is facing a similar destiny. May I note that this practice is very common in dictatorships like Zimbabwe and ex-dictatorships such as Libya?

“Why should I bother, as I am not a journalist?” you ask. If you by now do not know how the Protection of Information Bill will affect you as a member of society, you must have been hibernating for the past two years.

Read this while you are at it. Steven Friedman sums it up rather well.

 

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My World 1 Year Ago: Right2Know Demo


Every so often, I will write a blog about what happened exactly – or almost exactly – one year ago. Let’s start with the press freedom situation in our country.

In barely two months from now, the South African parliament is expected to vote for (well, hopefully against) the Protection of Information Bill, also known as the Secrecy Bill. The voting process was supposed to happen early September this year but South Africa’s ruling party – The African National Congress (ANC) –  decided to postpone to allow for further consultation.

South Africa is not out of the woods yet – the ANC said the legislation would be finalized by the end of the year. It is the end of October now and I find it very difficult to believe that the nature of my beloved profession might be something of the past very soon. And it is not only thing that worries me: South Africa’s future as a democratic country would then be on the line. really, can you call a country where journalists are not allowed to report freely a democracy?

Anyway – enough about that. This is not a blog about why the Protection of Information Bill is bad, bad, BAD news for South Africa. Not just for the media but for society as a whole (minus politicians, of course). I simply want to share some pictures I took almost one year ago during a Right2Know march in Cape Town. I found them a while back, and to my surprise this series contains a couple of images of the formidable and late Kader Asmal too.

 

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Charging journos to cover events = GREEDY!


For the first time since I published my first newspaper article somewhere in 2002 a conference organizer is demanding money from me to cover one of their events. Not just money, no no NO! We are talking US dollars, not South African Rands. And we are talking 1555 of them.

That is right: the South African Coal Exports Conference 2011, scheduled to take place in Cape Town in February, is seriously wanting to charge me about month’s income so that I can generate free publicity for a) the conference b) the conference delegates c) the conference sponsors.

Now that is what I call über greedy to the core!

In addition: news should be freely available so that we, journalists can inform you, the public, about what is going on. The news comes in various shapes and sizes, and conferences like these are usually a great source of news. With the media (in South Africa and elsewhere) feeling the pinch and still struggling with the aftermath of the crisis, there is no way they can pay for journalists to attend conferences.

Anyway.

I asked the woman, who replied to my media accreditation request, if I had indeed understood her correctly about the charges. “Yes, all press are paying”, she replied curtly. “I doubt that,” was my reply. “The press is usually not paying to cover events like these. Please let me know if you have a change of heart.”

As a friend and fellow freelancer commented: “I reckon they’ll find that no press pitch, and then wonder why not.”

Exactly. The problem however is that I am now missing out as one of my clients was very interested in various stories on the conference.

It does make me wonder … The most efficient way to keep nosy journalists at bay without telling them they are not welcome (which will see you end up in deep kaka) is to charge them a ridiculous fees.

Hm. Is this a new form of censorship? I certainly hope not.
 

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