A Decision of Absurd Proportions

South Africa will be flying at full velocity into the Stone Age as the very people meant to be upholding the foundations of democracy are denying a fundamental institution of a free society: a free press, devoid of rules restricting what it can report in favour of a single-sided opinion.

It’s a ridiculous notion – one that has been made by an ignorant government that can’t seem to fathom the absurd proportions of it.

This goes against the very integrity of democracy. Socrates, titan of philosophy and instigator of modern thought, aptly expressed this when he once said, “no society is good, whatever its intentions, whatever its utopian and liberationist claims, if the men and women who live in it are not free to speak their minds.”

The government’s reasoning towards enacting the Protection of Information Bill is that the media is not effectively regulated, and as such, reporting can sometimes be questionable. They have made themselves appear to be the victims of scathing attack by the press.

But this Big Brother-esque idea extends far from the mere proposition that our journalists are running rampant, having a field day reporting fallacies. Controlling the media controls the people of a country. Thus, effectively, we would be introducing a whole generation of “programmed” leaders that will be fulfilling a single-sided agenda. It will be propaganda on the biggest scale this country has experienced since the dark days of Apartheid.

This sounds disturbingly like the ideas proposed in George Orwell’s 1984, and if applied to our country in particular, this restriction of free information will have devastating ramifications. The vast majority of South Africa’s population is uneducated, and playing on this philosophy means that the government can easily sway opinions in their favour.

Yet, before we even go as far as criticising the integrity of this decision, we should examine the sheer foolishness of it. Our government appears incapable of understanding the times that we live in. Sure, back in the Apartheid era it would’ve been (and incidentally, it was) easy to muzzle the media. But the capacity of the modern media and advancement of communication technology negates the possibility that a system of this size can be contained. Modern media – blogs, Twitter and social networks – are constantly allowing citizens the opportunity to learn about events long before they are published in the traditional press. How does our government plan to leash the leviathan creature that is Media 2.0?

At the end of the day, though, we as free citizens, must understand that the State and the media need each other to co-exist in an equilibrium that ensures the safety, integrity and intellectual wealth of a nation. A functioning, symbiotic relationship such as this ensures that the principles of our sacred Constitution are respected, and that the idea of a democratic society – where the men and women are free to speak their minds – is maintained.

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