Spraakvryheid word in Suid-Afrika bedreig

MEDIA RELEASE BY PRETORIA AFRIKAANS PEN CENTRE ON 14 AUGUST 2006

(AFRIKAANS HIERONDER)

FREEDOM OF SPEECH UNDER THREAT IN SOUTH AFRICA

We, authors, journalists, publishers and members of the Pretoria Afrikaans PEN Centre wish to express our utmost alarm at legislation currently being drafted by the ANC government with the clear intent to control the press and other printed media. Books, too, will be affected by the amendment to the Film and Publications Act, a censorship body, that has hitherto excluded the news media.

Most opposition political parties, as well as the Freedom of Expression Institute and the Media Institute of South Africa have already expressed their dismay at the new legislation currently before the cabinet. Mrs. Helen Suzman, the liberal politician and veteran anti-apartheid campaigner, last week described the current measures as “devastating”. Mrs. Suzman has pointed out that “the apartheid government did not have general laws censoring the media except during states of emergency”.

If passed by the cabinet, the new legislation would therefore set South Africa back at least a hundred years as far as freedom of expression is concerned. We cannot allow this to happen.

We therefore call upon other PEN Centres worldwide to condemn the current attempt by the ANC government to control the written word in South Africa and for members to write letters to local South African embassies protesting against the planned erosion of our hard-won democratic freedom to write and to publish.

The practice by the South African Broadcasting Corporation and certain sycophantic pro-government newspapers, notably the Johannesburg daily “Beeld”, to keep blacklists of writers and commentators who are not allowed to voice their opinion or be quoted on radio or in the pages of such newspapers, must be seen as the precursor to the current legislation which will muzzle us all. We call upon the SABC, “Beeld” and others to stop this policy which is only befitting a banana republic and to allow free debate to continue on the many difficult issues facing our society, notably corruption, greed and the inordinate levels of criminal violence in South Africa.

In this respect, we are angered and saddened at the recent gang rape of a 70-year old Afrikaans historian and writer in the Cape village of Prince Albert, as reported in a Sunday newspaper. The woman, whose identity is being protected, was dragged out of bed at two o’clock in the morning and repeatedly raped by three youths who seem to prey on the elderly as they had previously assaulted a 93 year-old man in the same town.

How can one practise the writer’s craft in a society where censorship hangs over us like the sword of Damocles and senior female authors are raped by youth gangs?

Contact person: Dan Roodt, Acting Chairman, Pretoria PEN

cc. International PEN, South African PEN, Cape Town

MEDIAVRYSTELLING OP 14 AUGUSTUS 2006 DEUR PRETORIA-AFRIKAANSE PEN

SPRAAKVRYHEID WORD IN SUID-AFRIKA BEDREIG

Ons, skrywers, joernaliste, uitgewers en lede van die Pretoria-Afrikaanse PEN-sentrum wil hiermee ons uiterste kommer uitspreek oor huidige wetgewing wat deur die ANC-regering opgestel word met die duidelike bedoeling om die pers en ander gedrukte media te beheer. Boeke sal ook deur die wysiging van die Wet op beheer oor films en publikasies geraak word.

Die meeste opposisiepartye sowel as die Instituut vir Spraakvryheid en die Media-instituut van Suid-Afrika het reeds hul verbasing oor die nuwe wetgewing wat tans voor die kabinet dien, uitgespreek. Mev. Helen Suzman, die liberale politikus en veteraan anti-apartheidsaktivis, het die maatreëls verlede week as “verwoestend” beskryf. Mev. Suzman het aangetoon dat “die apartheidsregering nie oor algemene wette beskik het om die media te sensureer nie behalwe gedurende noodtoestande.”

Indien die kabinet die nuwe wetgewing goedkeur, sal dit Suid-Afrika dus ‘n honderd jaar terugsit sover dit spraakvryheid betref. Ons mag nie toelaat dat dit gebeur nie.

Daarom doen ons ‘n beroep op ander PEN-sentra wêreldwyd om die huidige poging deur die ANC-regering te verdoem om die geskrewe woord in Suid-Afrika te beheer en om briewe aan plaaslike Suid-Afrikaanse ambassades te skryf waarin hulle beswaar maak teen die beplande aftakeling van ons demokratiese vryheid om te skryf en te publiseer.

Die praktyk van die Suid-Afrikaanse Uitsaaikorporasie en sekere sikofantiese pro-regeringskoerante, waaronder die Johannesburgse dagblad “Beeld”, om swartlyste van skrywers en meningsvormers aan te hou wat nie toegelaat word om hul mening uit te spreek of om oor die radio of in die blaaie van sulke koerante aangehaal te mag word nie, moet gesien word as die voorloper tot die huidige wetgewing wat ons almal gaan muilband. Ons doen ‘n beroep op die SAUK, “Beeld” en ander om hierdie beleid te staak wat by ‘n piesangrepubliek tuishoort en om vrye debat toe te laat oor die vele netelige kwessies wat ons in die gesig staar, waaronder korrupsie, gierigheid en die uitermate hoë vlakke van geweldsmisdaad in Suid-Afrika.

In dié verband voel ons tegelyk woedend en treurig oor die onlangse bendeverkragting van ‘n 70-jarige Afrikaanse geskiedskrywer in die Kaapse dorp Prins Albert, soos wat in ‘n Sondagkoerant berig is. Die vrou wie se identiteit tans beskerm word, is twee-uur in die oggend uit die bed gesleep, waarna sy herhaaldelik deur drie jeugdiges verkrag is. Die jeugdiges maak oënskynlik jag op bejaardes want hulle het voorheen ‘n 93-jarige man in dieselfde dorp aangerand.

Hoe kan ‘n mens die skryfkuns beoefen in ‘n samelewing waar sensuur soos die swaard van Damokles oor ons hang en waar senior skryfsters deur jeugbendes verkrag word?

Dan Roodt

Waarnemende voorsitter, Pretoria-PEN

Kopié aan Internasionale PEN, SA PEN, Kaapstad

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