Louw, who is also the vice chairperson of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) (South Africa chapter), labeled the MAT ‘an unconstitutional insult law’ meant to protect government officials from scrutiny.
Speaking at a press conference in Parktown on Friday, Louw said the law will have a domino effect to other SADC countries, which already have restrictive media laws.
“South Africa does exert influence on other SADC countries. By passing the MAT bill into law, this will send wrong signals in the region as we are influential.
“If passed into law, the MAT will be an indicator of how other countries will behave. Remember South Africa, one of the countries with the strongest economy in the region and with the highest GDP, is considered as the most democratic state in the region,” said Louw.
He said the African National Congress (ANC) is trying to use the law to censor the media. However, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said self regulation in the media industry alone is not enough. He said many people had lost their jobs because of ‘malicious’ coverage by the media. He, however, failed to provide any examples.
Louw added; “This is a serious law in as far as journalism practice is concerned. It is a law that the government wants to use to protect officials from exposure to corruption and their lavish lifestyle.”
There has been an outrage over the bill, with the media industry here saying their self regulation and the media ombudsmen are doing enough.
The Law Society of South Africa described MAT as ‘a constitutional suspect’, while the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers said governments prevent critical appraisal of their performance and deprive the public from information about their misdemeanors by such insult laws.