The Freedom of Expression Institute is exceedingly disconcerted by the series of occurrences involving the SABC, including the banning of radio and TV political advertisements and the violation of the right to personal privacy through alleged staff surveillance. The FXI views the arbitrary banning of the advertisement through vague interpretation of the prescribed electoral regulations and the use of the draconian National Key Points Act as insouciant acts of blatant censorship. The FXI condemns the political interference that is clearly the root cause of the confusion at the SABC.
The Freedom of Expression Institute notes the release from unlawful imprisonment of Swaziland human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and The Nation editor Bheki Makhubu with muted celebration.
While the right to freedom of expression has been upheld by the same institution that sought to undermine it, of greater concern is the repugnant exercise of justice in the only remaining absolute monarch on the continent. Maseko and Makhubu were detained, indicted and remanded in custody for 20 days before the High Court dismissed the charges of contempt of court against them. The charges brought before both Maseko and Makhubu followed the publication of articles in The Nation questioning the judiciary’s conduct against a government official.
The Freedom of Expression Institute applauds the courts exercise of discretion in the judgment of MTN and Vodacom v ICASA. The court declared ICASA’s 2014 regulations invalid and unlawful, pointing out the determination of such to be among other things, irrational and unreasonable. The declaration is suspended for a period of six months from the 1st of April 2014 tasking the regulator to adequately review the regulations.
The FXI has launched two new publications under the occasional paper series. The Freedom of Expression Occasional Paper Series publication highlights critical freedom of expression violations and explores the extent to which these have an impact on the entrenchment of the democratic right.
The Freedom of Expression Institute is disconcerted with growing incidents of blatant censorship within South African tertiary education institutions. Several South African institutions of higher learning have experienced a wave of student protests recently, which have been met with hard handed response from the respective administrations. The growing discontent is a result of frustrations from many on-going unresolved grievances within the system. A case in point being the posting of an open letter on the internet by students of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Lukhona Mnguni together with three fellow students, raised their concerns in a letter addressed to the vice chancellor of the University, an action which prompted a disciplinary hearing by the University.