Publication: Cape Times Issued: Date: 2004-10-12 Reporter: Sheena Adams

Parliamentarians Hear Unexpected Call for Restrictions on the Media



Cape Times

Date 2004-10-12


Sheena Adams

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An unexpected call for parliament to impose restrictions on media freedom emerged yesterday during the inaugural People's Assembly.

Parliament was linked via satellite to the provincial legislatures around the country as land beneficiaries, union representatives and a host of other "ordinary" South Africans discussed pressing issues.

The event was held to mark the anniversary of the Constitution which was adopted on May 8, 1996, but amended by the Constitutional Assembly on October 11 that year.

After presentations from the provinces on issues including land reform and gender equity, Cosatu member Phutas Tseki from Gauteng said parliament had a duty to monitor the way in which the media reported on development issues.

Tseki was one of about 150 people who travelled to parliament to take part in the event. "Parliament should review the absolute freedom the media has and some restrictions should be imposed," he told gathered delegates and MPs.

He urged them to continue assessing how the media reported about the country. "With the Pan African Parliament the media harped on about only one question - how much it was going to cost. They never raised anything about development," he said.

Speaking to the Cape Times afterwards, he complained that local media showed no patriotism. "In terms of developing the continent in particular - a challenge facing the continent at large - the media is not assisting us. "On Zimbabwe they should also be asking historical questions about what happened there," he said.

Special guests at the event included Roelf Meyer, former National Party cabinet minister and key negotiator during the transition period.

In his address Meyer warned against restricting media freedom, saying it reminded him of some of the injustices inflicted during the apartheid era: "I would like to say to our comrade from Gauteng that we come from a period where there were huge restrictions on freedom of the press and I would definitely not like to see that repeated in future."

During sector presentations, land activist Siphiwe Ngomane said that despite the legislation pertaining to land reform, many shortcomings remained. "Since passing the legislation very few hectares have passed hands. About 3% (of land targeted for reform) have been acquired by historically dispossessed people," he said.

He said there was no "clear and comprehensive support" from the department of agriculture and land affairs to ensure "sustainable livelihood" for beneficiaries. "(The department) must ensure that a class of non-evictable occupiers is created," he said.

With acknowledgements to Sheena Adams and the Cape Times.