The question is how. How exactly will the Protection from Harassment Act, which came into effect this past weekend, truly enforce the broad changes it champions?
The one glaring difference is that cyberbullies are now within the reach of the law's extending arm. While South Africa's digital media have been used by people across a wide range of generations, the protection of certain rights remained - up until now - a slightly grey area.
A new amendment to an intelligence Bill has received a surprisingly mellow media and public response, considering the civil liberties at stake.
The SA Press Council has called for submissions as part of its review. So I started writing... and writing. Almost 4000 words and nine pages later, there are more than a couple of ideas about how press self-regulation can be strengthened. In a nutshell:
1. Change the name of the whole institution to "Press Accountability South Africa" (PASA).
2. Create separate bodies for adjudication and appeals.
3. Provide a Public Advocate to assist complainants, and an Advocacy Officer to drive public awareness.
Brisbane is a long way to discuss a debate in Africa over information. But it's the venue of the World Press Freedom Day commemoration on 3 May 2010, and UNESCO asked me to make an input. To this end, I drafted a paper, arguing for the importance (at least equivalent) of practical access to info in African conditions, in relation to the (largely unrealised) political right to information.
There is something I don't understand about Telkom's sale of its media unit to Shenzhen Media, a Chinese-owned company. In terms of our broadcasting laws, a local broadcaster may not be in foreign hands. This fact seems to have escaped most of the journalists covering the transaction, although the South African Press Association (SAPA) raised the question with Independent Communications Authority, and received a vague and equivocal answer. ICASA is "applying its mind" to the transaction, spokesman Sekgoela Sekgoela said, and would "engage" with Telkom over the matter.