A prayer -- or drugs -- for the delusional

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. When the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) claimed that the Protection from Harassment Bill was part of a state conspiracy to clamp down on the media, I did not gird up my loins and head for the battle between Media Good and Government Evil, but thought rude and nasty things about the press instead.

Now, Father, I know also that some things must be taken on faith alone. And it is true that the forces of darkness are gathering all about us — a media tribunal is in the offing, journalists have been arrested on spurious grounds, the Public Service Broadcasting Bill and Icasa Amendment Bill loom, while a decree has gone out instructing that information is to be protected.

But the hand of the Oppressor does not lurk behind every­thing and I want better proof of this than the media’s say-so.

This Protection from Harassment Bill was conceived as far back as 1999 when members of the South African Law Reform Commission were scribing Discussion Paper 85 on sexual offences and the substantive law.

A vision came upon them and said: “Lo, you must do something about those who send unwanted emails and SMSes, boil bunny rabbits alive and discern hidden protestations of undying love in the command to go away, very far away.” And thus it was that in 2003 the minister for justice and constitutional development did issue a proclamation approving such investigation — a time, you will agree, when the Protection of Information Bill and the media tribunal were but a twinkle in the parliamentary eye.

So, Father, what if after seven years the justice portfolio committee finally thought it time to give birth to the Bill, and what if its appearance at this time in 2010 is mere coincidence, rather than a carefully timed plot?

I have made myself a hair shirt of the Sanef parliamentary submission and repeated seven Hail Avusas, but still these heretical thoughts come to me, especially after reading from the holy books of The Times, Die Burger, Independent Online, LegalBrief and the Mail & Guardian. All preach from the gospel of Sanef and Avusa and prophesy only of the persecution and bondage of the children of Media.

But, Father, what of those women pursued by the deranged and obsessive? Sex workers who must do battle with the corrupt forces of policedom and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters persecuted by the self-righteous and intolerant? The good news about the Bill has not been brought to them. Surely, Father, even these, the least of your children, are blessed with the Right2Know.

Father, I beseech you to pour the balm of Accurate, Balanced and Fair Reporting upon the troubled media brow. Failing that, I ask you turn their waters into Haloperidol and Chlorpromazine which, I understand, are very effective in taking the edge off paranoid delusions. The internet said so. For this I pray, amen.

Lisa Vetten is the director of the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to End Violence Against Women



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