An amendment to the Film and Publications Act proposed by the South African government is a move to censor print and broadcast media, fear three local media and libertarian bodies.

The charge of attempted censorship is levelled by the South African National Editors' Forum, the local chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, and the Freedom of Expression Institute.

The trio voice acute concern that the government's upcoming Film and Publications Amendment Bill 2006 herald government censorship of print and broadcast media.

The act in its current form regulates films and publications - other than the news media - by classifications that determine which age groups are permitted to view certain films; likewise which publications should be prohibited, and how they should be displayed in retail outlets.

Currently, a clause in the Act exempts the media from its provisions, enabling the print and broadcast news media to operate freely and without interference or pre-publication censorship. This exemption dates back for decades and was even honoured by the Nationalist apartheid government.

Now, however, say the worried trio, the Home Affairs Ministry has proposed without warning or consultation that the exemption will be removed in the amended legislation. If this excision is accepted by parliament, South Africa's print and broadcast media will be subject to the diktat of the Film and Publications Board.

If true, it is a disturbing move by South Africa, currently a beacon of democratic government on the African continent

The practical effects of the proposal are to subject print, TV and electronic media to pre-publication censorship, forcing them to submit to procedures that could prevent papers from being distributed on a daily or weekly basis, or compelling broadcasters to delay news bulletins.

Data sourced from (South Africa); additional content by WARC staff