Amendments to the Films Act, which introduced a new raft of pre-publication checks on sexually explicit content, have been declared unconstitutional by the Pretoria High Court. The action against the law was brought by Print Media South Africa and the South African National Editors Forum. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
The Pretoria High Court ruled on Tuesday that the amendments to the Films Act would lead to self-censorship, lengthy delays in publication and an unjustifiable incursion on basic rights of freedom of expression.
“According to Sanef, the amended act placed onerous pre-publication vetting requirements on any publication that intended to depict sexual conduct that violates or shows disrespect to the human dignity of any person, degrades a person or constitutes incitement to harm, violence or advocacy of hatred,” TimesLive said. “Mainstream newspapers were exempted. Counsel for PMSA and Sanef argued that the act defined sexual conduct very broadly.”
This would have meant that publications like magazines would need prescreening by the films and publication board ahead of publication, if they described sexual conduct, even if they don’t condone it.
“It is probably no exaggeration to say that in all probability democracy cannot survive in the absence of freedom of expression,” said Judge Mathopo in his ruling. “I have no doubt that timeous communication is essential in a democratic system, for absent the right to receive, impart and give expression to information and ideas, there can be no meaningful talk or debates of liberal democracy.” FAM
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