Carte Blanche: Govt muzzling the media
Cape Town – South African television's best and long-running weekly investigative magazine show, Carte Blanche on M-Net, came out guns blazing on Sunday against the government's draconian Protection of State Information Bill that was pushed through parliament recently.
In an unexpected and visually dramatic fashion, Carte Blanche's acclaimed and highly respected executive producer George Mazarakis suddenly appeared on the air in Sunday evening's broadcast, denouncing the government's attempt to curtail press freedom in South Africa and attempting to clamp down on people's "right to know".
It follows two months after the Carte Blanche team appeared as a united front in a special public service announcement as they stood together and said: "we the journalists of South Africa believe the Protection of State Information Bill is a threat to our constitutional right of access to information and freedom of expression, and hence the lifeblood of our democracy".
In September, in a scathing editorial, the respected Carte Blanche anchor Derek Watts said "this is the first stage of turning South Africa into another state where media freedom is virtually extinguished".
The right to see it all
On Sunday, Carte Blanche took their protest a step further. In a visually jarring and eye-popping editorial – possibly foreshadowing the shape of things to come – Mazarakis, who steers the venerable broadcast but rarely appears on screen himself, addressed his audience.
"Carte Blanche's slogan is 'you have the right to see it all'. The new Protection of State Information Bill will effectively prevent that," he said solemnly.
A black screen then began to fade him out as he spoke.
"If the bill is passed into law, it will stop you from getting the full picture. We stand by our promise to fight for access to information and to uphold your right to see it all," he said from behind a black screen.
Then, silently, the words appeared: "You have the right to see it all."
Muzzling the media
Watts also weighed in on the highly controversial legislation, saying that it's been a week that "has seen parliament move a step closer to muzzling the media with the passing of the Protection of State Information Bill."
"It legislates a number of criminal offences that will affect whistleblowers and information the public has a right to know," he said.
"Now the Bill goes to the national council of provinces, and there may still be challenges to its constitutionality. We live in hope that South Africa will still show the way for the rest of Africa," Watts said.
Carte Blanche, produced by Combined Artists, and which have won hundreds of awards locally and internationally for investigative work over the past few decades, currently holds the record for the longest-running, uninterrupted TV show seen in South Africa.