I've just signed an urgent petition calling on the ANC to protect our democracy and basic freedoms by reversing an unconstitutional secrecy Bill and a new proposal to gag the media. I thought you would want to join me. If enough of us come together now and oppose these initiatives, our outcry will be too loud to ignore at the ANC Council this week.
You can read more below and sign the petition here:
Here's the original email ---
Dear friend across South Africa,
South Africa's democracy is at risk -- a draconian and unconstitutional new secrecy Bill is in Parliament and a Media Tribunal could be endorsed by the ANC Council this week, muzzling the media and letting the security agencies operate without accountability.
The secrecy measures in the "Protection of Information Bill" and the proposed "Media Appeals Tribunal" threaten press freedom enshrined in the Constitution and will hamper public scrutiny of the government and security agencies, blocking the media from exposing corruption and abuse of power. Hundreds of prominent South Africans, business executives, civic leaders and journalists have condemned the measures and submitted amendments on the Bill to Parliament, but so far the ANC is defending both proposals. Only massive pressure from citizens across South Africa can wake them up and preserve hard-won freedoms!
We have just 3 days to be heard at the ANC Council. Let's raise an irresistible outcry -- join the call for the ANC to listen to the people, respect the Constitution and promote accountable and transparent government! Click to sign the urgent petition, then forward this message to everyone – it will be delivered at the ANC Council:
43% of South Africans survive on no more than R16 a day and half of our youth are unemployed, while Transparency International claims "corruption is increasing at an enormous rate and it impacts severely on the poor. Revenue destined for the poor is misappropriated". These new proposals would obstruct the media's bold efforts to expose bribery, corruption and fraud and would lead this proud democracy towards autocratic control.
The proposed Protection of Information Bill would allow any national or local government department or agency to classify and make secret any information that they consider against the 'national interest' and would punish whistle blowers or journalists with up to 25 years in jail if they leak or publish information that was classified, even if it was in the public interest. This violates Section 32 of the Constitution -- which protects the citizens right of access to any information held by the State.
The Media Tribunal would replace the Press Ombudsman with a state agency accountable only to the ruling party, tightly regulating reporting, and imposing penalties on journalists.
Just like when citizens came together to call for effective treatment for HIV and AIDS in 2007, if we rally now we could change the course of these repressive policies and efforts to silence the media can be stopped.
The ANC Council meeting is the decisive moment -- if we lose this chance, the ANC's 60% majority in Parliament will most likely push these proposals through unchanged. Inside the ANC Council COSATU delegates and others are strongly against the gag law -- if we raise a massive citizens' outcry this week, we could support their efforts on the inside to overwhelm an elite who attempt to railroad through these undemocratic proposals.
Sign the petition and forward this message to everyone:
Many fought, and died, for these freedoms. Now, if citizens stand up together to protect South Africa's democracy, our outcry will be too loud to ignore -- and we will beat those who want to protect their power and privilege by curbing constitutional liberties.
With hope and determination,
Alice, Paul, Ricken, Benjamin, Emma, Giulia, Pascal, Iain, Paula and the whole Avaaz team
Avaaz.org was launched in January 2007 with a simple democratic mission: work with citizens everywhere to help close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. In three years, Avaaz has grown to over 5.8 million members from every country on earth, becoming the largest global web movement in history. Avaaz's largest membership is in Brazil and France and Mexico and India are two of Avaaz's fastest growing memberships this year. This campaign is being launched with the nearly 60,000 Avaaz members across South Africa.
"SA journalists fight proposed media laws", Mail&Guardian:
"It's your right to know, public reminded", Iol/Cape Times:
Protection of Information Bill:
"Media Appeals Tribunal" proposal in the ANC Discussion paper on "Media Diversity and Ownership":
South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign: Combining Law and Social Mobilization to Realize the Right to Health, Mark Heywood: