Democratic Alliance national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Democratic Alliance national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

DA MP Phumzile van Damme vowed on Monday to come out guns blazing at Tuesday’s communications portfolio committee session on the Films and Publications Amendment Bill in a bid to stop the bill from being signed into law.

The bill’s intentions are to clamp down on child porn, social media hate speech and incitement of violence, and "revenge porn".

But the DA has a problem with giving the government wide-reaching powers to censor content on the internet and social media websites. The party also considers the bill vague, unworkable and unaffordable.

Van Damme pointed out that in public hearings various NGOs and businesses in the telecoms and IT sectors, including the SABC, expressed misgivings about the bill and its implications for them.

"If passed, this would mean that the Film and Publications Board would, in contraventions of the constitution, overstep its mandate and infringe on the powers of a chapter 9 institution, Icasa [the Independent Communications Authority of SA].

"The Film and Publications Board cannot instruct Icasa when it may or may not issue or renew a broadcasting licence, a determination that may be made only by Icasa in terms of section 192 of the constitution, as was pointed out by MultiChoice during the public hearings," Van Damme said.

DA MP Veronica Van Dyk said the bill was a thinly veiled attempted at internet censorship under the guise of protecting children against exposure to pornography. She said restrictions on freedom of expression and censorship were the hallmark of autocratic states.

"The proposals in the bill prove that the Department of Communication does not quite comprehend the exact nature of the internet and online interactions. It also proves that, regardless of their ignorance, the government is trying to censor freedom of speech," she said.

The bill is considered to be unworkable because of the implications of posting content on social media — which, according to the bill, would require that anyone posting content on their social media account would need to apply as a distributor and pay a fee before posting content freely.