Press Release: Is freedom of speech and religion over in South Africa?

We, the youth of South Africa are so fed up with the power that be. Our future is dark.

Most Governments protect their citizen’s right to freedom of speech and the freedom to practice the religion of their choice by means of the Constitution. In South Africa, new laws will pave the way for an era of oppression and persecution because of the whims of our dictators.

As the majority of South African youth wait for the delivery of promises for better housing, improved health care, affordable and accessible education our Government is playing games and preoccupied with drafting new bills. It’s a matter of Rome is burning while the bosses braai.

The proposed Hate Speech Bill is designed to criminalise everything, from actual hate speech to harmless comments or comic cartoons, in newspapers and on social media. Any communication which is considered “abusive or insulting”, any act of “contempt or ridicule” of a person, or ‘group of persons’ could be punished with a 10 year prison sentence.

The majority of the people of South Africa have not been consulted. We have no say. Our poor and rural communities have once again been marginalised and are forced to read these laws in English and Afrikaans.

We might soon find only one party in the ruling benches in parliament while the rest are handed prison sentences if they dare to debate the issues of the day, or speak on behalf of the people, which might ‘offend’ the speaker of the house.

We find these bills offensive.

1) The Hate Speech Bill will make ordinary human expression (verbal, gestures, displays, expressions, illustrations etc. which also includes the use of e-mail and social media) punishable for up to three years in prison.2) The Bill assaults freedom of expression and muzzles the media into pleasing the ‘powers that be’. There will only be one voice, the voice of the one in power.3) Not only is it a threat to freedom of speech and thought, but also to religious freedom.4) This proposed legalisation would give the ruling party more power to jail and silence any opposition whatsoever.5) The Commercialisation of Religion Bill will allow the ruling party to dictate all forms of religious expression and beliefs.6) These Bills are setting the stage for political and religious persecution, especially if it criminalises healthy debate about religion and politics.7) According to this legislation, whistle-blowing corrupt activities could be construed to be hate speech.

Indeed, freedom of speech and religious freedom will become reasons for state capture.

The agenda behind these bills is obvious to us. The next General Election is very soon. Is the ruling party fast tracking their agenda to silence the opposition, the people and eradicate democracy, while trying to escape corruption and criminal investigations by the ICC?

Will South Africa become the latest pawn in a battle between dictatorship and democracy, freedom and oppression?

CYPSA: Spokesperson

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