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Core of advertising is threatened, writes South African expert
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network2media Bureau   
Monday, 03 January 2011 09:00 (IST)
AMASA, OHMSA, MASA, NAB, PMSAJOHANNESBURG: Freedom of speech lies at the core of advertising. If there were no freedom of speech, there would be no media and if there were no media, there would be no advertising. Freedom of speech is threatened and, therefore, advertising is in jeopardy as well. Willem KorgIt is time for the advertising industry to speak up and make its voice heard - whether an agency or outdoor, radio, print, TV or internet advertising.

Two pieces of legislation are on the verge of being introduced that pose a serious threat to freedom of speech:
  • The Protection of Information Act, which empowers the government to determine what information is “in the national interest” and to put an embargo on such information. It is a very broad term and virtually anything can be considered to threaten “national security”. The public will then simply have to trust the relevant cabinet minister to do the right thing, without it being subject to scrutiny by Parliament. The effect of this legislation is twofold:
    • The dissemination of information becomes an exclusive executive prerogative and it can potentially cover up corruption.
    • Secondly, it criminalises the publication of such information obtained by the media. The effect is that the media can only publish what the government wants the public to see. Hallo, Zimbabwe!
  • Then there is the Media Tribunal, which in essence is a super censor. It will have the authority to ban publications and to pre-screen certain publications. Hallo, apartheid! The legislation is cleverly disguised as a measure to protect children against pornography, but it is not that innocent. Some ANC members have suggested that the tribunal would be able to clamp down on reporting about the lavish, taxpayer-funded lifestyles of some cabinet ministers.
In addition moves are apparently afoot to amend section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act to force journalists to reveal their sources in reports on certain criminal matters.

How should the advertising industry respond? A workshop of all stakeholders - AMASA, OHMSA, MASA, NAB, PMSA, etc - should be convened to determine an effective strategy to combat this draconian legislation.

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