The Trouble With Censorship Is XX XXXX XXXXXXX

Christina Engela's picture

The Ministry of Home Affairs has announced plans to ban pornography on the internet. Also mentioned prominently in the article is their partner in this affair - The Justice Alliance of South Africa, a small right-wing Christian fundamentalist organization which has in the very recent past, lobbied against abortion rights for women, and whose Honorary Director was involved in Doctors For Life, which actively opposed same-sex marriage in the courts a few years ago.

The JASA (Justice Alliance of SA) is no more than a small group of religious conservatives, whose Board consists of only one legal practitioner and several Pastors - professing to be a legal group, with an eye on determining the morality of an entire nation. They of course oppose gay civil rights among other things, such as minding other people's business and seem intent on pushing a religious fundamentalist agenda in influencing government.

This proposed law banning internet pornography uses as motivation the "protection of children" and "good morals" and "family values" - sorry I think I'm in the wrong room, pastor - is this the Values Voter Summit by any chance?

So who is the Justice Alliance of South Africa, and why is the government of South Africa listening to them? Surely they are just a group of concerned legal experts? Let's find out.

In an annual report dated 2007-8, John Smyth, the honorary director of JASA stated:

"During 2006, after some 4 years of work in South Africa grappling with moral issues in the context of our Constitution, it became increasingly clear to me that the church must play a greater part in setting the moral agenda for the country and doing battle with the flood tide of secularism and humanism." [This part indicates that as a group, they are opposed to the secular nature of South Africa and the Constitution, and intend to change it.]

"South Africa’s heritage as a Christian country," [since when was South Africa ever an exclusively Christian country?] "and indeed that of the whole Continent which looks to us for a lead, was at stake. My work with Doctors for Life" [a rabidly anti human-rights, anti-gay, right wing fundamentalist group which is a close associate of the CAN and which opposed marriage equality for gay people in SA] "had taught me that opportunities for using the courts, the media, and making an impact on Parliamentary legislation, abounded if only a mechanism could be designed to harness them." [Straight from the horse's mouth - their intentions are to change the laws to suit their fundamentalist views] "JASA was therefore the response of a handful of Christian minds, and a handful of churches to the scriptural injunction which requires that every believer must engage in the pursuit of justice."

One only needs to read all their "newsletters" and "annual reports" to see that they are far less a legal group and far more a religious fundamentalist fringe group intent on stamping their mark on the South African Constitution and broader society. Clearly they are not content with the neat little line separating church from state and would like nothing better than to rub that line out. The question is - are South Africans stupid enough and apathetic enough to let them - because it seems that Deputy Minister Malusi Gigaba is only keen to meet them and make it happen?

Using "protection of children" as a smoke-screen for advancing religious fundamentalist goals is a clever cover for introducing legislation which can be manipulated later to ban anything which they claim to be a "threat" to "children and Christian family values".

Ok, so you might not like porn - neither do I - and this move doesn't directly threaten gay rights, but please read between the lines here. It doesn't take a genius to see where things will head when conservative laws start taking root.

Bringing in a law to institute censorship, based on the so-called "morality" of a certain group, on the premise of "protecting children" and which uses one religion as a basis would make such a law pliable enough to be applied to other things which religious fundamentalists of this order would find "offensive" - such as seeing gay characters in soaps like "Generations", gay people featured in magazine programs like "Top Billing". Heck, they will probably even want to ban "Spongebob Squarepants" and the "Teletubbies" for being "gay".

Before long it may be illegal for us to hold hands in public, hold public office or to have jobs as school teachers, without them pointing fingers at a law which they believe will "protect children, family values and morality" - from us. And it all starts with giving them a foothold in making laws which negatively affect freedoms of expression.

We know the right wing - of which JASA clearly forms a part, we know these fundamentalist fascist groups have set their eyes on taking down the Constitution - they want to put their narrow grasp of religion back into it - and take us out of it.

Aside from this proposed law coming from JASA, other related groups such as Family Policy Institute (Errol Naidoo) are working on the anti-prostitution law (with the same minister of Home Affairs, funny enough) - and also Media24, in the Jon Qwelane hate speech case, is challenging the constitutionality of the one equality law that supposedly protects us from hate speech. I would say this is a broad frontal attack on our rights.

The JASA is working on the premise that "protecting children" is constitutional - even when they have no factual basis to go on in proving what they are working against poses any threat, real or otherwise. I think this will end up in court - in fact, I'm hoping some group(s) will take this on.

I so love to say "I told you so", and I have been warning about this danger for months now, if not longer. I sincerely hope there are groups out there planning on opposing this monstrous violation of civil rights in the courts.

This proposed law is unconstitutional and someone with legal skills or perhaps a legal practice behind them needs to get in on the act. What about all those lawyers and advocates and politicians out there who enjoy freedom of expression and speech? If they want to keep it, they had better start getting their act together.

It is time our community had a group of legal experts to stand up for our rights, something of the same kind as this upstart right wing JASA, a group of dedicated volunteers who will defend civil rights in the constitution without expecting to walk away from it rich.

I don't know about you, but even though I don't like porn, I don't want to pay good money on an internet service, or TV license, or newspaper, or tax money to a state that causes my information, pleasure, interests or activities to be censored in any way, shape or form! I am over 21 and I demand to make my own decisions and choices.

In the meantime, perhaps you should let JASA and the Minister of Home Affairs know how you feel about their telling adults what we may or may not see or surf, using services for which we pay good money and are perfectly entitled to.

JASA Justice Alliance of South Africa 1 Ruskin Road, Bergvliet, Cape Town 7945 Telephone & Fax: 021-713-3259 Email:

South African Department of Home Affairs: Complaints and compliments Phone: 0800 204 476 E-mail: Fax: 012 810 7667

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