Among the many highlights of the Internet Censorship Bill, there’s a provision proposing the imposition of fines up to R150 000 or imprisonment by a court of law for “knowingly distributes, in any electronic medium, including the internet and social networking sites, any film, game, or publication which advocates propaganda for war, incites violence, or advocates hate speech”.
That sounds cool right? It will go a long way in quelling the retards making unbelievable comments on social sites. But The Democratic Alliance (DA) thinks it’s a bad idea and has indicated that it will raise objection to the internet censorship bill.
See Also: We Are Aware Of US Coup Threat – ANC
The opposition party stated that their objection stems from a fear that the Bill “will chill free speech enshrined in the Bill of Rights.” if it is “pushed through Parliament without due consideration.”
As known, the Films and Publications Board (FPB) Amendment Bill intends to extend the reach of the FPB to include online content, and as well establish a “Penalty Committee” that will be empowered to impose fines and criminal prosecution of individuals who contravened its provisions.
According to the DA, it implies that “the FPB, and in turn, the Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, will have powers to impose fines and refer any “offenders” to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for prosecution for the content of their posts on Facebook, Twitter and any other social media sites deemed to have fallen foul of the provision.
Such wide-ranging powers of censorship over all social media posts needs to be carefully considered and worded in such a way that it would prevent it being abused by the government to censor, and curb free speech.
“A clear distinction must be made between free speech and hate speech as defined in the Constitution,” DA argues.
The opposition party highlighted other “problematic clauses of the Amendment Bill” to include the below:
S5 which gives the Minister the power to appoint the Penalty Committee in consultation with Cabinet. The Penalty Committee will have amongst other powers, the right to impose fines of up to R150 000 and refer cases for prosecution for contraventions of the FPB Act. A body with such powers should be appointed in consultation with Parliament, and not the Minister and Cabinet to prevent a situation where the Penalty Committee becomes a political hit-squad.
S6B(1): which gives the CEO of the FPB undue influence in deciding the sanctions of the Penalty Committee, as well as decisions for criminal prosecution. The Penalty Committee should remain entirely independent, and not operate under any influence of the CEO, to prevent bias, perceived or otherwise.
S18 usurps the powers of ICASA, and oversteps the FPB’s mandate, by stating that ICASA may not issue or renew any broadcasting license to a broadcaster who also streams content through the Internet, unless such broadcaster is also registered with the Board as a distributor. This creates an unnecessary duplication of administration and regulation.
DA stated that it’s alright the Amendment Bill’s seeks to outlaw revenge porn, but then lamented that “its current form leaves large scope for abuse which parliament cannot allow.”
Read Also: ANCYL Warns DA To Stop Sheltering Racists