Rights groups angered by eThekwini council media ban


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DURBAN - Rights groups are threatening legal action against the eThekwini municipality after it passed a by-law that could see the media banned from some council meetings.

A small group protested outside while the council met to pass the amendment

Civil society organisations in Durban are up in arms with the move.

The newly approved by-law allows the council to stop the media and the general public from attending some council meetings.

“We believe that this is done to protect certain individuals who want to do wrong in the municipality, who want to loot the municipality. So, we want transparency", said Ben Masokwe from the Active Citizens Movement.

Others likened the amendment to the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, more commonly known as the Secrecy Bill.

“eThekwini municipality is trying to do the very same thing… We want to know what is happening with our money. Issues of corruption, we want to be there so that we expose them - we want to name and shame them,” Right2Know&39;s Thabane Miya said.

While civil society organisations protested in rainy weather, the council forged ahead with the day&39;s business.

The municipality denies the law will lead to the withholding of crucial information.

“If someone is named in an audit report but the full might of the law is yet to be implemented in dealing with that issue, it’s obviously premature to have that issue discussed in public,” eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said.

However, opposition parties are not convinced.

“That [move] would ensure that media people can’t even report back to the community. So, if you are doing that, you are preventing access to information by the community,” the IFP&39;s Mdu Nkosi said.

The proposal was sponsored and supported by the council&39;s majority party, the ANC.

“We are going to seek legal action. We will challenge it and we are prepared to mobilise masses of people in this city to oppose it,” said environmental activist Desmond Desai.

The council says it will continue to engage with unhappy stakeholders.