SNIPPETS FROM SOUTH AFRICA: FEBRUARY 2010
by Shaun Willcock
In this article:
*The Film and Publications Amendment Act: an Assault on Freedom of Expression in South Africa
*Chilling Report: Cuban-Style “Community Spies” Could be Established in South Africa!
*The Shocking State of South Africa’s Hospitals
*Mother and Daughter Brutally Murdered, Daughter Also Raped
*Young Woman Survives Being Thrown Off a High Bridge
*Black Mob Accuses Child of Being a Vampire, Bays for Blood
*Suspected Witchcraft Killer on the Loose
*Witchcraft Behind a Case of Shocking Cruelty to a Dog
*Smoking Vulture Brains to Win the Lottery!
*Police Station Robbed of Its Firearms!
The Film and Publications Amendment Act: an Assault on Freedom of Expression in South Africa
Although it hardly received the publicity it should have, both in South Africa and internationally, legislation was passed in 2009 that is a grave intrusion on freedom of expression in the country, and has very dangerous implications for Christians who publish Christian materials.
The Film and Publications Amendment Act was signed by President Jacob Zuma. It requires that publications, films and games first be submitted to the Film and Publications Board if they: contain explicit sexual conduct which violates or shows disrespect for the right to human dignity; degrade any person; constitute incitement to cause harm; are propaganda for war; incite violence; or advocate hatred based on any identifiable group characteristic.
The act also specifically provides that the board must ban any material which, in their view, contains: child pornography, bestiality, incest or rape; conduct or an act which constitutes incitement of or encourages or promotes harmful behaviour; explicit infliction of sexual or domestic violence; or explicit visual presentations of extreme violence. And failure to submit such material will incur a five-year jail sentence, or a fine, or both.
The media industry was deeply concerned that the act would criminalise freedom of expression and pave the way for pre-publication censorship. The executive director of the Freedom of Expression Institute, Melissa Moore, said, “Certain sections of the amendment act fail dismally in giving effect to the right to freedom of expression and constitute a grave intrusion.” The most intrusive element was that, under the guise of protecting children’s rights, the legislature had introduced a system of pre-publication censorship which was unconstitutional. “This will in turn open the regulation of publications, films and games up to abuse and inhibit the free flow of information,” she said.
There was an exception for pre-publication censorship for newspapers that fell under the ombudsman, but 500 other newspapers and publications did not. “In no way does the institute support or condone child pornography, the incitement of imminent violence, propaganda for war or hate speech. However, we view the provisions as unjustifiable, unreasonable and arbitrary limitations on the right to freedom of expression in that the provisions limit the right to freedom of expression.”
The Publishers’ Association of South Africa said that protecting children from sexual abuse and combatting child pornography could be achieved without this act, which would cripple the publishing industry: “it might have good intentions, but who knows how it can be misused ten years down the line,” said the association’s legal affairs chairman, Nicol Faasen.
For Christians it can readily be seen that this new act is potentially very dangerous. We fully support any legislation that bans the depiction of such vile things as child – or adult – pornography, bestiality, incest, rape, gratuitous violence, etc. “Freedom of expression” must have limits, and such things should never, ever be permitted anywhere in the world. But the danger for Christians is found in that part of the act which states that publications or films must be submitted to the board if they advocate hatred based on any identifiable group characteristic. No true Christian, of course, teaches anyone to hate others, or to seek to harm others based on their religion or any other characteristic; but this is how (for example) Christian books could be perceived by the Film and Publications Board, if such books speak strongly against false religion (such as Roman Catholicism or Islam) or sinful practices (such as sodomy). When such things are condemned in a Christian publication, those who hate Christianity could argue that this is “advocating hatred based on religion” or on “sexual orientation.” It certainly is not, but they might argue that way.
If a true Christian writes a book, he should never submit it to such a board, comprised of men of various religions or none, for them to decide whether or not the book can be published! That is outrageous. Matters of Christian doctrine and practice do not fall within the jurisdiction or oversight of the State. No true Christian should ever seek permission from the State to publish a work! Yet this is what the act insists must be done.
True Christians are urged to pray that this piece of legislation would be overturned, for it constitutes a grave threat to the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ in South Africa. It joins a whole host of other laws which are now in effect in this country, virtually eliminating religious freedom and paving the way for persecution of Christians. The threat is very real and we must look to the Lord for protection, and for the grace and courage to continue serving Him faithfully.