STUDENT ACQUITTAL REAFFIRMS THE RIGHT TO PROTEST

31 March 2016

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) joins celebrations concerning the dropping of charges against 28 students who were arrested outside parliament in October 2015 during a protest against tertiary education high fees in South Africa. The group was initially charged with treason and charges were later changed “to contravening the Regulation of Gatherings Act (RGA)”, public violence and trespassing. The FXI notes with interest the reasons that led to the dropping of charges.

It is clear that the prosecution applied a sober mind when considering the law (RGA) in conjunction with the section 17 of the Constitution that guarantees the right to protest. The prosecution acknowledged the fact the primary condition for exercise of the right is that participant do so peacefully and unarmed.

This is in contrast with what transpired in a matter concerning 21 Social Justice Coalition (SJC) members in Cape Town who were also exercising their constitutional right in a peaceful manner in 2013 over the provision of sanitation. The court eventually convicted 10 of the accused in February 2015 and they were “cautioned and discharged”. They now have criminal records for merely exercising their right in line with the constitutional provisions – peacefully and unarmed. The group is appealing the matter.

The FXI supports the appeal and with the developments emanating from the students’ experience. We hope that the SJC member will be cleared. The FXI continues to call on authorities, including the courts, to consider a consistent interpretation of the RGA.

Image from GroundUp.org.za

For more information, contact:

Siphiwe Segodi, 011 482 1913

FXI Condemns University of Pretoria Social Media Ban

04 March, 2016

The Freedom of Expression Institute strongly condemns the blanket ban from liking , re-tweeting and sharing of hate speech of staff , students and those affiliated with the University of Pretoria. This arbitrary action illustrates the fundamental deficit of understanding on how social media and the internet works. Likes, shares and re-tweets are not necessarily endorsements but potential facilitators of constructive debates about the issues that concerns us most in South Africa. Instead of imposing arbitrary bans, the University should rather focus action on only those who are directly responsible for hateful and dangerous speech on campus. A complete ban on commentary not only violates the right to receive and impart information, it also creates a void that will inevitably be filled by similar hateful and dangerous speech. What we should be doing as members of society is countering hateful and dangerous speech both online and offline. There is need to develop an alternate narrative of the racial divide between blacks and white that promotes the rights of all in society regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religion.

 

For more information:

Zororo Mavindidze, 073 554 8310/011 482 1913