Film and Publication Board Amendment Bill uses the protection of women and children as a smoke screen to control internet content
6 March 2018
The Film and Publication Board’s Amendment Bill is not genuinely aimed at protecting women and children, but rather it is an attempt at censorship under the smokescreen of protection and it is actually aimed at controlling internet content and, therefore, it must be set aside.
This attitude of control is symptomatic of the ANC government’s approach of central control over every aspect of life.
There is no doubt that explicit content must be kept away from children and that its production and distribution must be stopped. There are, however, more sensible ways of doing this; like reinforcing the police’s child protection units and putting a stop to the production, distribution and the possession of child pornography and other illegal content.
The FF Plus agrees that women and children in all spheres of society must be protected and that it is important for new technological platforms to be brought in line with this objective.
However, the question is whether the ANC, with its questionable reputation regarding human rights, can be trusted with any form of regulation. The answer to this question can only be found in considering history and the fine print of the amendment bill. There are numerous problems, but two things in particular set the alarm bells ringing.
The first is the provisions in the amendment bill that stipulate that internet content needs prior approval before it can be posted online. Not only is this mechanism clearly an unconstitutional form of censorship, but its scope is vast and includes almost all online content.
This is obviously unconstitutional and symptomatic of the ANC government’s disregard for the Constitution; which only changes when the opposition and the public oppose it. The ANC is constantly testing both the views of the public and the Constitution.
Another problem is that they are seemingly unaware of the fact that it is not really possible to regulate internet content.
Rules and regulations can be implemented for content uploaded and distributed through South African servers, but nothing can be done about content coming from outside of the country’s borders, except for reporting it to the relevant foreign authorities. Even then there is no guarantee that action will be taken.
It is regrettable that one must feel sceptical about the ANC government’s true intentions with this amendment bill. It seems as though the best interests of women and children were probably not the main priority when these mechanisms of censorship were created.
Issued by Anton Alberts, FF Plus chairperson, 7 March 2018