SA heading for internet censorship

The Film and Publication Board (FPB) has refuted rumours that its Draft Online Regulation Policy will censor internet usage in South Africa.

It says the proposed regulations are to ensure that commercial media distributions do not publish or promote illegal material such as pornography, violence and hate speech outside of the guidelines.

The FPB held a public hearing in Johannesburg on Thursday night to consider objections are from civil society and advocacy groups.

This as the FPB’s Draft Policy on Online Regulations has been met with extreme criticism. It has been called the worst internet censorship law ever planned for this country.

According to the policy, the FPB will have the power to order publishers to remove content they deem unwanted.

This means news agencies which use online platforms may have their content taken down at the discretion of the FPB.

FPB’s Chief Operating Officer, Sipho Risiba, says the regulations are intended for registered distributors of films, games and online content producers and will not affect ordinary internet users.

However, a clause in the policy reads as follows: “With regard to any other content distributed online, the Board shall have the power to order an administrator of ANY online platform to take down any content the Board deems potentially harmful.”

With the proposed pre-classification process, breaking news and citizen journalism could be limited.

Examples of police brutality against thew white minority in South Africa could be censored.

Citizen journalists taking footage of such events on their cellphones to promote social justice issues will no longer be able to post material right away. The draft regulations will take that immediacy away.

he FPB will continue with public consultations on the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga in June and July. Hearings have already been conducted in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Critics maintain that the proposed screening on online material is a gross violation of the constitutional right to the freedom of expression including the freedom of the press.