Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Freedom of expression on a tightrope!!

Hi, once again

Let me not beat about the bush. I am a firm believer in the freedom of speech, and was very much annoyed by what happened last week, a day before freedom day celebrations. Apparently the SABC (public broadcaster) had committed censorship again. This time around it was supposedly to prevent hate- speech propagated by the Sowetan newspaper advertisement. The advertisement borrowed on the famous Martin Luther King Jnr. “I have a Dream Speech”. For an example it says “…I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up against each other and erupt into an oasis of crime, grime and home to racial attacks and injustice….I have a dream that my children will be repeatedly raped, sodomised and left to fend for themselves long after HIV and AIDS have taken me away”, and “…I have a dream that one day farmers shall be brutally murdered and workers thrown into lions’ den”.

If you ask me, this is a relevant advert – conceived at the right time. It flies in the face of political correctness that it is South Africa today. The South African physique is so sensitive to freedom of expression that it end up be coming difficult to say anything at all. I know the rationale behind the legislation that prevents hate speech and racism and respects the constitutionality thereof. But, by the same token, we can’t be a nation that finds it difficult to laugh at itself, to reflect upon itself and so on. I fully agree with the various commentators across the various spheres of the media industry that the advertisement was just a “decries of South Africa’s ills.” It is South Africa’s problems turned into sharper focus. It problematises the values of freedom that all of us so dear hold. Thirteen years of freedom had come up with a whole lot of problems to the South Africans- child rapes, murders, deepened racism and the like. The SABC, as a public broadcaster should be the vehicle for such public statements like the Sowetan’s advertisement. It should not bury its head in the sand with hollow excuses, but it should encourage the public to face the stark reality that is facing South Africa.

It is even telling in the advertisement itself that it encourages the South Africans to take their freedom seriously and challenge things like crime and rape. Its punch line reads thus: “What have you done with your freedom South Africa?” and “Don’t let it go to waste, cherish it”.

Regards, themba (The Armchair Critic).


Susan Arthur said...

Hi Themba
I enjoyed this post on a very topical subject. I thought you could leave out the first line 'let me not beat about the bush'- it's not really necessary. Also, I thought you could use a better word than 'physique'.

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke said...

I am not South African but I have learnt so much about socio-economic dispensation in this country. When I visit places like Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum, I come away very upset and I am not from this country. It is sad that as you say a lot of things have been swept under the carpet. There has not been proper reconciliation in this country. A lot of anger and ill-feeling still boils within the surface. I think apartheid is still in evidence, only under a different label 'democratic licence'.

Susan's right about the word 'physique' I think you wanted 'phsyche'.

Thomas Blaser said...

I enjoy how you express yourself and state your case, you are an excellent 'opinion' writer. The Sowetan should be glad to hire you! Perhaps you should work on your editing, grammar, etc.. Today, people are no longer available for irony - it is a dying art form. Even the bible is only interpreted literally! The scars of apartheid are present - it is up to each of us to make a difference and strive to reduce it in our daily lives, in what we do, what we think and what we say. I am optimistic when I talk to young people from all "races" and hear their opinions.

Valentin said...

Dear Themba, I completely agree with you. Not many people in this country have come close to the notion of the so-called "democracy".
Nor real democracy exists in this country, in my opinion. Still corruption and greed rule the environment in South Africa.
In this regard, I will give you a copy of my written peiece of work (the one that we handed in to Susan Van Zyl). There I question the notion of the so-called "South African identity" and the notion of "democracy". It might be of interest to you!

Valentin said...

Themba, you are right. Apart from the lack of freedom of speech, there are still many other outstanding problems in this country that have not been dealt with: rape, crime, roberries etc.
Indeed, fourteen years of democracy have proven that democracy exists on paper; however, implementation of democratic principles is another story.
I still believe that South Africa goes on the right track. However, it will take time!