Pretoria PEN regrets growing intolerance in South Africa

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Pretoria PEN regrets growing intolerance in South Africa

Pretoria PEN, the writers’ assocation, has regretted the growing intolerance in South Africa, as manifested in the ongoing controversy around the Protection of Information bill. “The bill and media reactions to it have created a rift between the ruling African National Congress and minority groups reminiscent of the polarization that took place in Zimbabwe a decade ago between ZANU PF and the opposition which ultimately led to the dissolution of that country,” said Dr. Dan Roodt, president of Pretoria PEN.

“Whereas the bill may be abused in order to silence or intimidate journalists, mere noise or protest will not reverse its passage through parliament where the ANC enjoys an overwhelming majority due to the centralised political system adopted in 1994. It is our view that government should heed its critics and amend the bill to save freedom of speech and access to information in South Africa,” Roodt continued.

Affiliated to PEN International in London, Pretoria PEN represents approximately forty Afrikaans-language authors in the north of the country. The association is dedicated to the promotion of literature and freedom of expression. The members of Pretoria PEN also subscribe to the PEN Charter which makes it incumbent upon writers “to use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect between nations”, as well as “to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong as well as throughout the world whenever this is possible”.

As a banned author under the former political system in South Africa, Roodt “feels particularly strongly that freedom of speech in South Africa should be protected against all threats, not only from the government but also from the commercial media monopolies of South Africa and some narrow-minded journalists who regularly abuse such monopoly power by vilifying or besmirching public figures and stifling rational debate. The ultimate test of any liberal democracy is its tolerance towards minority views, both in an ethnic and moral sense.”

Contact Dan Roodt
+27 (0)73 951 1467    


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