The Justice Alliance of South Africa (Jasa) has been admitted as a friend of the court in a matter in which the Constitutional Court must decide on a High Court ruling against an amendment of the Films and Publications Act which requires magazines containing sexual conduct which undermines human dignity to be submitted to the Film and Publications Board for examination and classification before publication.
In his judgment in the South Gauteng High Court on October 26, Mr Justice Mathopo ruled in favour of the Print Media SA and SA National Editors Forum who argued that the act would lead to self-censorship, lengthy delays in publication, and an unjustifiable incursion on basic rights of freedom of expression.
The Judge ordered that the statute be altered so that only those articles or graphics which “advocate or promote” degrading sexual conduct should be submitted to the Board.
The Constitutional Court will hear the matter on March 13 and will either confirm or reject the High Court’s ruling.
JASA was admitted by the court on February 20 to advance a number of new submissions in support of the Minister of Home Affairs and the Board, it discloses in a media release today. Amongst other submissions, JASA says:
- The order by the Judge makes a nonsense of the statute because editors cannot be judges in their own cause. It must be for an independent body to ascertain whether something ‘advocates or promotes’ specified conduct. Very often an article advocates or promotes something by implication.
- The objections to freedom of expression and the importance of getting news out timeously can be met by ordering that only the sexual article be submitted, not the whole publication. Furthermore a time limit may be written into the Statute or Regulations to ensure the Board makes its decision without delay.
- The right order for the Constitutional Court to make is one which suspends any order resulting from unconstitutionality, if such is found, to give time for Parliament to reconsider what is obviously a very important matter for the protection of children, and in order to give adults proper choice. JASA believes this is a matter in which the Court should not usurp the function of Parliament.
Jasa says that papers filed in this matter can be viewed at www.justicealliance.co.za. Advocate Darryl Cooke of the Cape Bar acts for JASA instructed by A Batchelor and Associates. Anthony Berlowitz Attorneys are correspondents in Johannesburg. All act pro bono.