Archive for the 'Censorship' Category

South African media regulation poses threat to its constitutional values

The ruling African National Congress is pushing through measures for greater state control of the media in South Africa, by way of a Protection of Information Bill, currently being debated by the legislature, and a proposed Media Tribunal, which would make the country’s press answerable to parliament.  The Protection of Information Bill would introduce criminal offences such as publishing classified information, with a broad definition of “national security”, and minimum prescribed prison sentences for breaches.  The justifications offered by the ANC – that the media is imbalanced, resistant to change and cannot regulate itself – raise questions when set against a background of long-running tension between the ruling party and the press, the latter of which is perceived as taking an ‘anti-ANC’ stance. 

The proposals have been met with outrage from South Africa’s media, free speech defenders and opposition parties, who have branded the measures as “Orwellian”, and highlighted the dangers of the slippery slope of censorship.  The 1996 South African Constitution is internationally praised as one of the most progressive in the world, particularly its Bill of Rights, which sought to redress the endemic injustices of the Apartheid era, and includes a detailed guarantee of freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and other media.  The current government must ensure those constitutional protections are upheld.  Accusations of censorship must be countered by ensuring the protection of freedom of expression for all, including opposition journalists, and the highest safeguards must be put in place against abuse of any media measures that enter into force, so that they protect only legitimate national interests, and not political ones.


Instant messaging: Enhanced communication or security threat?

Several countries have expressed concern over the use of instant messaging services like Blackberry in their countries.  Saudi Arabia was due to ban the service from 6th August, but did not do so. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is due to ban the service in October.

The main complaints of these countries has been the alleged threat to security posed by the service and the fact that it is difficult for them to monitor the communications, because the data is encrypted and sent to Canada to be decoded. The UAE’s telecom regulator, TRA has denied that the suspension of Blackberry in the UAE from 11th October has to do with censorship and claims it is due to Blackberry not complying with UAE telecommunications regulations.  However, there was an alleged attempt by TRA to install spyware on to Blackberry and in 2007, they were refused access by RIM to the code for the encrypted networks to monitor communications. Continue reading ‘Instant messaging: Enhanced communication or security threat?’

Does Thailand’s state of emergency balance national security with freedom of expression?

Following anti-government protests in March in Thailand, the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Thai government declared a state of emergency.  As part of the state of emergency, “public gatherings of more than five people are banned and security forces have the right to detain suspects for 30 days without charge.”[1] Since then over 400 people have been detained.[2] Emergency rule is still in force for parts of Thailand and was extended beyond the initial period for another three months.  The reason given for the extension was initially based on fear of security, but now business and tourism are the reasons for imposing and lengthening the emergency state.[3] Continue reading ‘Does Thailand’s state of emergency balance national security with freedom of expression?’

Wikileaks: Freedom of Information v National Security

In April this year, Wikileaks posted a video of US Military personnel celebrating after launching an airstrike that killed a dozen Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists. The Pentagon had initially blocked an application by the Reuters News Agency to obtain the video on the grounds that it would compromise US national security; however, Wikileaks director Julian Assange was leaked the video and able to view the recording after breaking through military encyption protecting it. The US has since released an arrest warrant for Mr Assange, who has been advised not to travel to the States.

Since Wikileaks posted the video a soldier has been charged. However, not for the attack on the Iraqi civilians, in direct violation of international law, but rather for leaking the video itself. Army Specialist Bradley Manning was charged with two criminal counts including disclosing classified national defence information, exceeding his authorised access to US computers and transferring classified data onto his personal computer. Continue reading ‘Wikileaks: Freedom of Information v National Security’

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