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South Africa government to introduce Bill regulating web content

CAPE TOWN South Africa(Xinhua) -- South Africa is to introduce a bill that allegedly censor the internet.

The controversial Films and Publications Amendment Bill, which was introduced to the National Assembly by Minister of Communications Faith in November last year, will be presented to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications Tuesday.

This came amid an emergence and avalanche of explicitly sexual and violent content brought in by the new media push and cyberspace, Muthambi said Monday, adding that some of the same content is delivered through traditional distribution platform.

"We are witnessing a failure of self-regulation in certain sectors of the industry.

"Also, state regulation has its limitations within the industry.

"Therefore, a much coordinated co-regulation model that provides for the involvement of industry and the government is required," said the minister.

This Bill does not create a new regulatory regime, but seeks to strengthen the law by closing the gaps identified in the Films and Publications Act in relation to online content regulation, Muthambi added.

The government, she said, is looking at how it can work with Internet Service Providers (ISP) and the industry to come up with the best regulatory framework.

"The Department of Communications is not seeking to control the internet, but safeguard minors and vulnerable persons in the best way possible," Muthambi noted.

According to data from the Classification Guidelines Review process, most parents surveyed seem to be of the view that the state had an obligation to protect their children from exposure to harmful content.

But the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said it would raise its objections to number of problematic clauses in the Bill.

The Bill, the party claims, is intended to give the FPB wide-sweeping powers to censor the Internet.

"The DA fears that if this Bill is pushed through Parliament without due consideration, it will chill free speech enshrined in the Bill of Rights," said Phumzile van Damme, DA Shadow Minister of Communications.

The DA says the Bill seeks to extend the reach of the FPB to include online content and establish a "Penalty Committee" with powers to impose heavy fines and criminal prosecution of those deemed to have contravened its provisions.

"Such wide-ranging powers of censorship over all social media posts need 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," said Van Damme.



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