A broad alliance of civil society and industry associations has issued a firm call for the Film and Publications Board (“the Board”) to withdraw its draft Online Content Regulation Policy, released for public comment on 4 March 2015. The call for the withdrawal is based on the unconstitutional, unlawful and unworkable nature of the draft, as well as the fact that it ignores several related Government processes.
A spokesperson for the alliance noted that “[W]e all accept the need to address the ease with which children are able to access pornography and other inappropriate content on the Internet as well as the extension of current offline classification undertaken by the Board into the online environment. This is a critical debate already taking place within the South African Law Reform Commission and the ICT Policy Review Process.”
“We do not, however, accept the appropriateness of this document as a starting point for this debate as it is premature and indicates a lack of understanding of the manner in which content is distributed online. The failure to define key terms or to provide workable definitions for others creates confusion in interpreting the scope of application of the document, but it appears that the Board wishes, effectively, to classify the Internet.”
The allied organisations noted that – while the strapline of the Board was “We inform. You choose” – the draft policy as published was more akin to a laying a platform for the systematic infringement of constitutional rights, particularly freedom of expression.
“We accordingly call on the Board to withdraw the draft policy pending the finalisation of the SALRC process and future debate around the amendment or replacement of the Films and Publications Act.“
The deadline for submissions on the draft Policy is 8 July 2015.
Charley Lewis, Tel: 083 539 5242
Association for Progressive Communications:
Emilar Vushe, Tel: 073 094 4690
Freedom of Expression Institute:
Zororo Mavindidze, Tel: 073 554 8310