The South African Communications Department and the Film and Publications Board have asked Parliament to allow tighter scrutiny and tougher sanctions against racist comments, hate speech or child pornography on social media and have proposed that a fine of 150,000 Rand (about 9,740 US dollars) or two years in prison be imposed as punishment.

Noting that smart phones and tablets have changed the profile of Internet users, who are getting progressively younger, the acting Dorector-Gerneral of the Department of Communications, Norman Muzhelele, says exposure to harmful material like child pornography or racism is just a finger click away and the Department and the Board want to stay ahead of this.

Noting that many people are accessing information online, he added here Wednesday: “In the current Act, many of the measures which we want to put in place are not necessarily sufficient. We are putting measures to be able to have regulations or co-regulation, that means that we’re able to protect the children when they access harmful content>”

Meanwhile, Sipho Risiba, the chief operations officer of the Film and Publication Board, said racism and hate speech could undermine social cohesion. “I don’t think we really want to raise racist children. I think we have a responsibility as a nation to ensure that the electronic mediums are free from these types of issues.”

The Bill being proposed also seeks to criminalise so-called revenge porn.

However, Members of Parliament took issue with the Department for not involving South Africans in their proposals. Opposition Democratic Alliance MP Phumzile van Damme said: “There was no public consultation on this Bill. There was public consultation on the policy, this is not a policy, this is the draft bill and there has not been public consultation.”

Ruling African National Congress party MP David Kekana said the Department must go back and carry out consultations and the Parliamentary Committee on Communications resolved to take the Bill through a public participation process with the first public hearings expected within three weeks.

Source: SABC