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Bill to regulate distribution of online content approved

But opposition parties say the Film and Publications Amendment Bill amounts to censorship - and may be unconstitutional.

FILE: Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - The National Assembly has approved the Film and Publications Amendment Bill which seeks to regulate the distribution of online content.

It’s a move the government says will protect children from the sexually explicit material, curb hate speech and revenge porn. But opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) have criticised the legislation as a bid to regulate the internet and as such, unenforceable.

The vote went 189 in favour, with 35 against and no abstentions.

The bill must now come before the National Council of Provinces for its approval before it can be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa to be signed into law.

New Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane says the rise of the internet and social media made it necessary to amend the existing Film and Publications Act of 1996.

But opposition parties say the Film and Publications Amendment Bill amounts to censorship - and may be unconstitutional.

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Liezl van der Merwe said: “This bill through the Films and Publications Board, seeks to take wholesale control of the internet. Among some of the provisions, this bill requires everyone who generates some type of revenue from distributing content online to register, pay a fee and have their content approved and classified before they can post it. Well, this smacks of censorship.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters rejected the bill as “impractical”, “reactionary” and a threat to freedom of speech.

The party’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi says the red berets are prepared to challenge it in the Constitutional Court if necessary.

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