Regulations are soon to be promulgated to give effect to the provisions of the Film and Publications Act, which was amended last year. It will break the internet, and require a censorship bureaucracy of which the Apartheid government could only dream.

‘[V]ague, unenforceable, impractical, prone to abuse.’ That’s how Afriforum described the Draft Films and Publications Amendment Regulations, gazetted in July by communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

It reconfirms the government’s total ignorance of how the internet works, and its belief that citizens must be controlled by strict authority, for their own good.

It also demonstrates that the African National Congress (ANC) is no different from the old National Party. Like the National Party, its moral views are profoundly conservative. Like the National Party, it feels insecure in its power. Like the National Party, it often comes under attack by the media and citizens alike. Like the National Party, it views criticism as disloyal, and frequently responds with irritation and anger.

The draft regulations, like the Films and Publications Amendment Act that was signed into law last year, are draconian and regressive, and will severely curtail the ability of South Africans to express their views.

Classifying everything under the sun

In the past, the Film and Publications Board (FPB) classified movies and other content that were offered for sale or hire. That’s where the age restriction label comes from.

The new regulations extend the authority of the FPB to any content, including content distributed for free. It is so broadly worded that any online video clip of any length qualifies as a ‘film’.

Anything else under the sun qualifies as a ‘publication’. A sound recording of any kind. Any drawing, photo, illustration, picture, print, lithograph, engraving, or painting. Any writing, of any length, which ‘has been duplicated’ (which all modern electronic writing has, by definition). A statue, carved figure, statue or model. Any computer code, except games, which are classified separately, and films, ditto. The regulations literally say they apply to ‘any content made available using the internet’.

Anyone who wants to publish films, including live streams, podcasts, or social media videos, will be required to register, upon payment of a fee and proof that their tax affairs are in order, as a distributor or exhibitor. Failure to register means you will not be allowed to publish any video, anywhere, even for free.

All publications, games and films must, prior to distribution, be submitted to the FPB for classification. This includes all online content. This process could take weeks and will incur a fee. This may require appearing in person before the FPB.

The only exemptions to this requirement are media houses that are members of the Press Council of South Africa, and advertisements that fall under the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa. Foreign publishers may apply to have foreign ratings systems accredited in South Africa.

Government permission

If you publish educational videos, fitness videos, spiritual videos, or training videos, you can apply for an exemption, but that will still require you to pay a fee and prove that your tax affairs are in order, so it still amounts to getting government permission to publish.

Distributors may apply for the right to self-classify content, which is the only way to bypass the delay of weeks or months while waiting for FPB classification or exemption. However, this will cost a very substantial annual fee (likely to run to hundreds of thousands or even millions of rand), and one slip could cost them that right.

If you’re handing out photocopied flyers, they need to be classified. If you publish a church newsletter, or a residents’ association circular, you’d better get FPB approval.

If you post a picture of your beach holiday to Facebook, or a racy quip to Twitter, they need to be classified, lest you corrupt a minor somewhere.

If you’re a blogger, I hope you can afford a massive self-classification fee, because otherwise you might as well shut your blog down for good.

If you carve pipes or whistles, each one will have to be submitted for classification, so a panel of government bureaucrats may inspect it for hidden phallic imagery.

The regulations also appear to tighten up what sort of adult content will be legal for adult audiences. Games may not depict any explicit sexual conduct whatsoever. Films may not depict ‘sexual violence’, which would prohibit any film depicting rape or sexual assault, no matter how it treats the subject or how many Oscars it won, and might well have the effect of outlawing BDSM content.

Vast new censorship bureaucracy

It is, of course, quite impossible for the FPB to vet and classify every piece of content that gets published, especially online. Yet these regulations, with few exceptions, require it to do so. Even with a vast new bureaucracy of censors, this task will prove to be impossible.

Real-time commentary on current affairs will become impossible, if these regulations are to be followed. Only registered news media will be able to write about the news. Joe and Jane Citizen will have to ask permission, pay a fee, and wait a few weeks, to post their two cents to social media.

The Act, and these regulations, are patently absurd. One cannot expect ordinary citizens to comply with these deeply stupid laws. They won’t. And like with irrational lockdown regulations, their respect for the law and the government making it will be further eroded.

There should, however, be thousands of new job opportunities as government censors, so notch up another win for creating unproductive jobs.

Think of the children!

Of course, the usual justification for such draconian censorship is to protect children. However, these regulations will not achieve that, at all.

The regulations define a detailed procedure to be followed should any content submitted for classification be found to contain child pornography, including reporting the applicant to the police.

Now I don’t know any child pornographers, but I would expect that your average maker of highly illegal material is not going to ask the government for permission to publish it.

They will also not publish it on any major content platform such as Facebook or Twitter. If they do, they won’t last long, with or without the FPB’s intervention. Nor will they publish it on an ordinary website, whose ownership can easily be traced. After all, child pornography is already illegal.

Wherever these criminals associate, the new process for classifying content will not touch them. And those who wish to view child pornography will have to know where to go to evade the law, and it isn’t YouTube, or any platform that is easily accessible to censors and law enforcement. You don’t just accidentally stumble upon it.

Nor will these regulations protect children from viewing content that the government, in loco parentis, has decided might offend their delicate sensibilities. Just because an online video must now carry an FPB stamp with an age restriction doesn’t prevent anyone from viewing it.

Keeping children away from potentially harmful content has always been, and will remain, the responsibility of parents. They will still be required to implement parental controls on devices to which their children have access, as they always have. These controls will not be based on FPB classifications, but on software that filters potentially offensive web addresses or controls offered by major content platforms.

Any child that could access dubious content before these regulations will still be able to access such content after their implementation. The regulations will benefit nobody, in any way.

Nobody benefits, except government

Except the government. The censorship regulations will benefit the government.

No longer will uppity nobodies who style themselves ‘citizen-journalists’ be able to discuss current affairs without permission.

Since almost everyone who has an online presence will end up falling foul of these vague and over-broad regulations, they also offer a way to exact revenge upon traitors who dare to criticise the ruling party.

If publishing something without permission can incur a R150 000 fine or eight months in prison, and every single tweet sent without permission will constitute a separate offence, it will be trivial to slap enemies of the government with penalties amounting to millions, or with years in a political prison. This law and these regulations are wide open to abuse.

Even the Apartheid government, which liberally censored music, films and publications, did not expect to prohibit literally all content produced by individuals without government consent. The ANC is now doing so, as if we needed more reason to vote them out of power at the earliest possible opportunity.

As soon as these regulations come into force, let’s have a mass disobedience campaign. I’d love to see the FPB go after tens of thousands of people for posting risqué pictures without asking permission first.

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

If you like what you have just read, subscribe to the Daily Friend

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

34 COMMENTS

  1. Which uniform was Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams wearing when she made the proclamation? I’ll bet it had a red star on the beret.
    Oh how totalitarians and communists love control. Imagine the bureaucracy needed to manage the censorship dept. I suppose they will ban playboy again.

  2. I am very unhappy about this, Is there something we can do to stop this, our country is democratic, if they just do what they want , they just do things that suit them

    • Hi Elsa don’t despair, there’s a rapidly growing movement calling for all SA Citizens to unite behind the effort to change our multi-party electoral system (which was ruled unconstitutional in June this year, so it has to change) to one of Direct Democracy, where we vote for individual people, NOT a political party. See: OODEZZ #DirectElections on Utube.

  3. Stop using the Apartheid era and policies as a comparison please, it was nowhere near this evil… This ANC regime is not only comparable to the CCP in China, they are using EXACTLY the same tactics China is using to censor the internet by implementing a firewall. In fact, its China that is helping them with this.

    • Good point, but you are missing that ANC thinks that it is still 1917 and revolution is about to happen, that Stalin will save us all.

  4. The government has been captured by China and those who want to implement a New World Order? Wouldn’t surprise me to see this happening in other countries as well it’s all part of their evil master plan. If you want freedom communism must be resisted at all costs.

  5. Hahahaha!
    How pathetic is this new legislation? Back then in the day of the “OLD APARTHEID REGIME”, they could not enforce it, neither will they be able to now. Are there going to be mass arrests of the offenders?
    They most likely see this as a money cow that they think they’ll be able to milk!

  6. I downloaded the legislation. At first glance it looks terrifying because of its simultaneous broad scope and lack of specificity which can be twisted any way government apparatchiks see fit. I doubt it would be enforceable because if the government couldn’t track a few hundred people via cell phone at the beginning of the lockdown, they are utterly unlikely to police the online behaviour of 58 million people. However, they might not have to. It seems to me this can be used to build up dossiers on people and if they ever have problems with the government, pressure can be brought upon them to drop cases or complaints against the state in exchange for immunity from prosecution for “contraventions” of these stupid regulations. While I would say that all South Africans should make submissions against this bill (the physical and email addresses are attached to the regulations), I think that even if they did that it wouldn’t matter because government will do whatever they want regardless of the wish of the people just like with the amendment to the property clause in the Constitution.

  7. This has to be opposed with all means available! The Chines/communist link is quite plausible. But this parliament is stupid enough to pass it so it is up to civil society to launch the greatest opposition to it this country has ever seen.

  8. I feel quite heart sore that a country with the beauty and potential of all its citizens, is being eroded spiritually, emotionally and physically by leaders who are looking after their own interests. Do we want to be another Zimbabwe with its failed economy? We need freedom of speech. The choice to broaden our knowledge by having access to the good and bad. To be able to make our own decisions on what we allow our children to experience.

    • How true. I actually want to say “How dare they!” – since we have God-given free will for self-determination. This surely goes against the laws in our Constitution anyway. They won’t get away with it. There is a group called http://www.theunitygroup.co.za. They may be on to something very important.

  9. This government talks a lot. E Tolls never worked. So many other things they came up with did not work. This will not work, wint succeed. They’re way too stupid to execute it.

  10. There is so much TALK about the Western Cape splitting from the rest of South Africa, but nothing actually happens! I’m sick of all the talk. When can we vote???????????????

  11. I absolutely think this is the worst attack on our democratic rights I have seen to date. It is essential that the DA, IRR, Afriforum, and all like minded bodies take this to the Constitutional Court on everyone’s behalf. It would literally change our country from a Constitutional Democracy to an authoritarian diktaat State. Please if you do nothing else, oppose this Bill. I am surprised Gerry and Afriforum have not taken this on already. Every person with even half a brain would contribute to a legal action on a crowd-funding basis.

  12. Another idiotic decision by an idiotic government trying their best to turn the rest of the population into idiots as well. Shortsighted, unenforcable, money wasting, and counter productive, and unconstitutional.

  13. How silly of us not to think that something like this was not in the pipeline. As per the ANC NDR, how else would they be able to control, manipulate and subdue the masses. Remember the Nat government banning the English classic ‘Black Beauty’ – all about a famous horse. Imagine the racial invective and SAHRC pronouncements that are soon to crash down on ‘Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs’?

  14. The solution to this idiocracy is so simple – Change the Government – We all posses at least one vote – Consider the end result before you put the “X” – The future is determined by your actions today (read next election)

    • Well put, Molyone! If only Zimbabwe had thought the same earlier as well. Hopefully, South Africa won’t make that mistake come the next election.

  15. Haha! What next..? Expect more with the blatantness of some of the actions of this government… not even surprised these days to hear them doing whatever they want… money going missing everywhere, they need new ways to supplement their “income”..

    • Absolutely sickening seeing this beautiful country brought to it’s knees.
      Ruled by a bunch of absolute morons with rules and regulations which only benefit THEM!
      Blaming all the failures and incompetency on apartheid and the colonial era.
      Heaven help us all!!

  16. To implement these proposed measures will require an army of censors, people that can read, understand and make value judgements. Such people are in short supply. Secondly, such people will requiere to be paid. With the terrible shortfall in revenue that we had even before COVID, the subsequent mortal blow to the economy by lockdown mismanagement – just think the asinine bans on ciggies and alcoholic drinks – the 3 million people who lost their jobs, together with the salaries they would have earned and the VAT their spending would have created, the extra expenditure on assistance to the indigent, the jbless, the lazy cadres etc etc, our budget deficit will become so big that their wont be money to pay the civil servants, the traditional welfare recipients, the GEPF pensioners, the money lenders that provided the billions of government guaranteed loans the interest owed to them.

    WE do not even have to exert ourselves to oust the ANC from power, they are hard at work committing suicide by financial mismangement.

    • Just think
      They can now employ three million buddy cretins paid from the pension funds which may last a year by which time they will hv ensured ANC rule for life
      All will go quietly to the slaughter.
      This happens when an ethical society tries to confront LOWEST IQ on the planet

  17. This is simply another pathetic attempt by an inept public servant, to put down or control anyone who may have a view and communicate it to others. Given that the povos have no way to illustrate their unhappiness or vent their views, this bill will finally quash any possible attempt to do so, at any and every level.
    Its exactly what the ANC want, another way to control by some sort of coercion. The next level will be to outlaw email and the internet completely. really?
    Yes, it must be warded off at all costs.

  18. Zimbabwe just happened in South Africa… Watch, as your freedoms vanish and ANC gain full control of what you’re allowed to see, hear and do! Hopefully, you don’t have idiots like Nelson Chamisa to stuff it up, but make the change, before it’s too late!

  19. In the Old South Africa, (Before 1994), in order to get a Government contract or appointment, the candidate had to:

    1. Be able to do the job.
    2. Actually do the job before being paid for it.
    3. For tenders, with all else equal, typically the lowest quote would be chosen.
    4. If (1)-(3) above applied to more than one applicant/tender, then the person that is of the same race as the President would receive preference.
    5. In consultations, preference would be given to people of the same race as the President.

    Now this was obviously unacceptably discriminatory, so in the New South Africa some corrective action was implemented:

    (1)-(3) was scrapped.
    (4) and (5) was strengthened by replacing the “preference” part with “compulsory”.

  20. This can not be allowed to happen. When arts and culture falls under censorship, then privacy is the last and next bridge to bring down a nation. Of course the land issue is the one that will trigger it all (and it’s starting with the squatter issue now) but when we can’t write or express ourselves anymore (even non politically) we are doomed. Rid this country of communism, Chinese influence, bigotry and hate now !
    Lastly, I too my hat to all daily friend commenters. You keep things calm and logical, and it’s not like the raging comment threads seen on other news forums. Keep it up everyone. Let’s go back to this level of respect, logic and self policing. Signs of a good people.

  21. Logic and reason cannot be used to dialogue with the ANC.
    Their prime struggle rhetoric is and always will be black versus non-black.

    Despite all the TAX CONTRIBUTIONS by us the working class, the ANC have not used the taxes collected to make any significant contribution to uplift their own people the past 20 years.

    If we want a black versus non-black WAR or GENOCIDE in this country, then lets do it & get it over ASAP.
    We have been wasting time and threatening each other for 20 years, but each side to scared to do any thing.

    A couple of million South African dead bodies across all races is just collateral damage and not different than other African countries.

    At least, we would learn true human values coming out of that exercise.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here