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.

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Comments
9 Responses to “Why I am not supporting #BlackTuesday”
  1. Kimora Heady says:

    I am so grateful for your blog.Really thank you! Really Great.

  2. oko says:

    well i havent been following much about this bill but i am aware of it and must say that we as a people should individually investigate anythng that requires our support simply because supporting without understanding makes us sheep who r privvy to being led astray.

  3. char bhengu says:

    I have been following this debate and both parties have put forward very convincing hypotheses and probabilities to support their diverse perspectives on the issue – influenced by conflicting interests. And while the current debate seem to focus on the principles of journalism ‘the right to free speech’ and ‘in the public interest’, I am more interested in the debate about media’s right to publish state secrets and the threat of publishing sensitive and classified information to national security. I wish someone can unpack this for me because while i am entitled to know what my government is doing and on the other hand supports media’s campaign to expose corruption and protect our freedoms, that right must come with some responsibility and accountability, and should in no way compromise my security as a citizen of this country because right now both parties are are moving toward the extremes.

    • mindmapsareporter says:

      You are right I think this has been the failure of the media. Organisations like the South African Editor’s forum are not doing enough in this regard.They must lobby for media freedom but also consider that educated media practitioners are part and parcel of that. Media entities must do more to inform their staff about these things. That is why I was very angry at the Mail and Guardian last week. To do what they wanted to do is unacceptable. Even if you are exposing something it does not give you the right to break the law or endanger anyone.

  4. khulekanimag says:

    I’m in full agreement. But now is not the time to make it an issue…

    • SihleMthembu says:

      I think now is the best time to make it an issue, cause this part is all gone. We should talk about it now so when it’s time to go to the constitutional court we are not told to wear black again. By then we would have done some real lobby work, not this sausage fest

      • Ryan says:

        You make some very valid points, most of which I agree with. I especially enjoy your insight with the statement “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.” Very, very apt indeed. My concern however is that once the bill is passed, which as you say is inevitable, it becomes law. The challenge in the Constitutional Court may not be heard for a long time and during that phase, the classification parameters may be set by the minister. Obviously any actions could be undone by the ConCourt ruling, but chances are that only certain provisions of the Bill wwill be challenged, or at least successfully argued in the Court. Remember that unlike an appeal noted or heard by the Appellate Division, the effectiveness of the Act (as it will then be) is not stayed.

      • SihleMthembu says:

        You are quite right, in the interim in which the bill will be effective it will be a very sensitive time. I think as soon as today we should be mobilisng for some kind of interdict or immedite constitutional court hearing.

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