Information Bill will limit media freedom, say South Africans

Ipsos survey investigates South African opinions relating to the proposed information bill.

July 5, 2012

Ipsos survey investigates South African opinions relating to the proposed information bill.  

44% of South Africans believe that the proposed information bill or “secrecy bill” will limit media freedom. This is according to results from Ipsos’s “Pulse of the People” poll, conducted between April and May this year.

“Although passed by the National Assembly late last year, the bill has yet to be debated by the National Council of Provinces” states Mari Harris, Public Affairs Director at Ipsos. “South Africans are quick to criticise this proposed bill, being opposed to any measures that may curb freedom.” Only 13% think that it will not limit media freedom and almost a third (29%) remain neutral on the subject, with 14% having no opinion.

Analysed along party lines, 51% of DA supporters believe that the new proposed information bill will limit media freedom. ANC supporters display slightly more faith in the bill with a lower percentage – 44% – believing that the bill will limit freedom of the media. However, in broad terms there is not much difference between the opinions of supporters of the two biggest parties in the country.

“The proposed bill has evoked a very passionate response as it will not only impact on media freedom but also have an influence of every aspect of life,” states Harris. “The right to know is seen to be valued as very important in our fairly young democracy” comments Harris.

Basic Human Rights

More than 6 out of 10 (61%) agree with the statement that access to information and a free media are basic human rights. A similar proportion of ANC supporters (62%) share this view while DA supporters feel even more strongly about the subject with more than two thirds (68%) supporting media freedom as a basic human right. Less than one in ten (9%) disagree with the statement, 5% do not know and a quarter (25%) remain neutral.

Notwithstanding the local lekgotlas on the issue and the critique of the bill from all factions (including from within the governing party itself as attested by the abstentions, no-shows and walk-outs before voting time on the day it was passed in the National Assembly), the South African public stand very firm in the belief that nothing should curb the freedom and democracy in our country.

Potential for corruption

Apart from the issues concerning media freedom, almost half of adult South Africans (46%) are of the opinion that, if the new information bill becomes law, it will be easier to hide corruption and fraud. This sentiment is more pronounced amongst DA supporters (55%) than ANC supporters (44%).

“The issue of corruption is one of the so called red-light areas in the regular Ipsos Government Performance Barometer – which highlights the public’s evaluation of government performance on 25 critical policy and service delivery areas,” explains Harris. “If less than 50% of the public evaluate the government as doing well – that is doing “very well” or “fairly well” in a certain area – the issue is below the pass mark and is highlighted as a problem area – demanding urgent attention or corrective measures from government”.

More than half of South Africans believe the government is not doing well in the fight against corruption in government. There is a marked difference in the opinions of DA and ANC supporters. A very high percentage of DA supporters (72%) express themselves strongly opposed to the current handling of this important issue. This view is shared by a significant proportion (42%) of ANC supporters. On the flip side, just over half (53%) of ANC supporters give the government some credit and believe that it is performing well in fighting corruption.