Why I am not supporting #BlackTuesday
Most of my colleagues today are wearing black at work. I have not done this. I refuse to conform to intellectual pressure. Over the past few days there has been building mobility and constant reportage about the protection of information bill or the “secrecy bill” as it has become known. Daily we have been getting updates and analysis about the significance of the bill. Activists have been at their full lobbying might, telling us to wear black and show solidarity with the media. I cannot help but be amused at all these side shows. Perhaps I am a hard-line rationalist but for some reason I think that this carnival will be drawing attention away from the real politics of the issue.
As a media practitioner I am very disgusted at the approach and manner in which my colleagues have engaged with this subject. In conversations and debates about the bill I have on several occasions had to wipe my brow with embarrassment over the fact that some journalists have not even bothered to read the bill. The very people that we are trying to support and protect do not even know what they are being protected from. Additionally two weeks ago there was a protest in Durban, where civil society had mobilized in order to get behind the media and help refute the bill. Where were the journalists? I only saw a handful of reporters that were covering the story. The editors and their staff were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they were sipping coffee in their newsrooms and talking about utopian things such as “freedom” and “liberation” and were too busy to join us. The protests were not even showcased in some media outlets.
There are counter arguments which would suggest that black Tuesday is a sentimental affair. That is a mere way to help showcase solidarity. My answer to that is simple. If the same amount of time that has been spent trying to convince us to wear black clothes had been spent on actually getting people to go to the public hearings maybe we would have had some sort of a stronger voice. But instead shockingly around the country the public hearings were empty something which I am sure pleased endorsers of this bill.
Granted, some of the hearing dates were announced late into the night. But still the fact remains, do we only support media freedom during the day? I am increasingly worried about a populace that is so naive that they think a government that wants to censor its people still has the morality to do things during the day. It makes absolutely no sense for them to give us ample warning and I am alarmed by the fact that we thought they would do so.
Most likely by the end of today the Protection of information Bill will be passed in its current form. There will be no revisions (at least not now anyway). Nothing dramatic is going to happen. We will not witness a sudden outburst of remorse from ruling party MP’s who will suddenly feel it is a good idea to do the right thing and disown their ranks. The only sensible thing to do now is to try and build some sort of constant chain of direct engagement. We are tired of this spirit of temporary activism that has plagued this movement. The intellectual nonsense must stop. People living vicariously through this movement add no credibility to its cause. By the end of the day when everyone has taken their black clothes of there will be one form reality that will remain, realistically the only chance we have at deterring this thing is the constitutional court. Let’s get behind that cause and stop thinking about color blocking.