Silence is not so Golden

A black day in SA

Today marks a pivotal day in South African history as citizens take to the streets, the web, telephones and offices to protest the passing of the controversial ‘Secrecy Bill’.

Those opposed to the bill will wear black today in a symbolic mourning of a loss of freedom. The ‘Black Tuesday’ protest – initially set for Wednesday and called ‘Black Wednesday’, also bears reference to 19 October 1977 when various media organisations were banned by the apartheid government and around 20 media representatives imprisoned.
the State Security Agency (SSA)says that this protest is sensationalist, disrespectful and that the bill is actually ‘in in line with international best practice on security in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.’ SSA spokesman Brian Dube

Gagged!!

says”It is not correct that there will be mass classification of information as the application of the bill is narrowed drastically to national security departments,” and “In some respects, the process to access information has been made even faster than is the current process found in the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).
But they would say that right? And with arms deal corruption investigations going on, along with various other top government officials caught with their fingers in the pie, it seems that The Right2Know Campaign may have some merit?

It’s been a long year of deliberation that has led to today’s National Assembly vote and yet, it seems highly possible that the majority ANC will easily pass the bill, which has the possibility to severely limit the power of the media to expose wrongdoings by the government.

If you think this has nothing to do with you, you’re wrong. Corruption in our government influences every possible sector of our day to lives and the integrity of our local media has been influential in exposing these deceptions. If the bill is passed the media will not be able to claim it acted in the public interest if it violated or was party to, the violation of a law, or published classified information to substantiate a report on, for example, malpractice or corruption in government.
“Let’s tell the government we are all opposed to censorship. It’s crunch time. The nation needs to unite and stop this nonsense,” NPC chairperson Yusuf Abramjee said on Sunday.

What freedom?

Today media representatives, public figures and local celebs have issued their own statements of support via email, Facebook, Twitter and traditional media.
Twitter is awash with statements imploring people to support the cause. Everyone from Pieter Dirk-Uys to Ard Matthews, Roland Schoeman to Helen Zille and Koos Kombuis is having their say.
Desmond Tutu has come out in support of the protest saying, “It is insulting to all South Africans to be asked to stomach legislation that could be used to outlaw whistle-blowing and investigative journalism… and that makes the state answerable only to the State.”
Anti-apartheid writer and Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer said on Sunday that the bill was “taking South Africa beyond apartheid” and goes “totally against all ideas of freedom”.

Here are some of the more interesting Tweets relating to today’s protest:

@TannieEvita: This is the first time I wear black and feel excited. This is not the end; it is a beginning. Keep the glass half-full. Welcome our spring!

@Madamevecartoon: ████ ██ █ ████ everything ███ ███ is███████ ████ fine ████ ███ love, ███████ ███ your █████ ████ government

@GarethCliff: I won’t be tweeting any more today. I’ve been censored. #POIB #BlackTuesday Let the Govt. tell you what’s best for you…

@davidkibuuka: With the Arms Deal,we know that EVERYONE in the government had a taste.So “Protection of Info” is actually “Protection of Thieves“

@HelenZille: Today we wear black as a symbol of mourning and protest against a law that undermines a cental pillar of demcracy – media freedom.

If the bill is passed today, there is still hope- as @TannieEvita implies.
It still would have to move through the National Council of Provinces, before reaching finalisation.
Meanwhile Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela has been tasked by Abramjee to set up a team to investigate concerns around the bill.

What can you do today to make an impact? Aside from dressing in black, you can call the Chief Whips’ offices and make your concerns known – follow the instructions here!

Read this story for more information about Life under the Secrecy Bill.

Even cartoonists...

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