Let reason prevail

Elsewhere in this edition we reported about the brazen attack and sheer brutality on media freedom by members of the security agencies.

This is not a new development as it has happened in the past under the previous regime. We never thought this would ever happen under the current regime. Talk of new wine in old glasses! We admit that the police are free to investigate.

What happened to our journalist is a clear indication that the country needs the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA). This episode is sheer reminder why journalists need that Act. In pursuit of our role as the Fourth Estate there are impediments all over the place. These landmines are found in so many Statutory Acts to organisational policies.

We have a Whistle Blowers Act that exclude the private media. In fact it criminalises the work of journalists to expose corruption in government. For example, if one has damaging information against the Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) and the police and other security apparatus go after that person, they will confiscate his phone or computer and know the identity of the whistle blower.

Various parastatals do not have any kind of mechanism to enhance access for  and by journalists. Actually they do their best to hide information from journalists. Public relations officers for instance, are there to enhance their image. The FoIA clarifies the limitation of the media’s reach to official secrets. There are boundaries that we agree upon.

Law enforcement authorities have sweeping, unfettered powers because they can literally seize the journalist’s devices such as computers, cellular phones and notebooks and use them as a goldmine for anything. Under the current law, a security officer can secure a search warrant citing one investigation and use the phone or a laptop as goldmine against other people. It is a system that can easily be abused by overzealous security agents like in this case we cited above.

In the present case, we are told that former spy chief Isaac Kgosi shared pictures of some DIS agents, thereby contravening provisions of the Intelligence and Security Services Act. Shockingly, the very same person accusing him of a crime last week told a tabloid publication he ‘re-hired’ a certain DIS agent who is currently in South Africa.

He even named the said agent and the police’s silence on the matter is deafening. This is because Peter Magosi appears untouchable super human being under the current regime. He can disclose the identity of his officers and Mr Untouchable will escape scot-free.  That is the said state of our affairs.

Needless to say that we need urgent legislative review of the Penal Code. It is full of nefarious clauses that can be used to muzzle or harass journalists.


Today’s thought 

“Intimidation, harassment and violence have no place in a democracy.” 

 – Mo Ibrahim

Editor's Comment
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