Appeal tribunal declassifies The Spear

2012-10-10 18:11
Staff reporter
The Film and Publication Appeal Tribunal has set aside the “16N” classification of Brett Murray’s controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma, The Spear.

The declassification is relevant to the painting, which was displayed in the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, the image published on the gallery’s website and other websites as well as other electronic images.

The Goodman Gallery appealed against the classification on September 17, on the grounds that it was
impermissible and unsustainable, Sapa reported.

In its ruling the tribunal says it appears the Film and Publication Board (FPB) attempted to use a section of the act governing its work aimed at protecting children to “vindicate the right to dignity of those who were affronted by the painting”.

“They were not, in terms of the law, permitted to do so. The sole objective of restrictive age classifications is to protect children; and to the extent that the Classification Committee attempted to achieve the purposes of protecting sensitive viewers or assuaging the sense of indignity felt by some segments of the community, it erred. It was not legally permissible for it to impose restrictive age classifications to achieve these purposes or objectives.”

The tribunal also found that:
» The FPB should not have considered the complaint against City Press (for publishing an image of the painting on its website) since the board has no jurisdiction over the newspaper or its website.
» The FPB erred in extending its decision to classify The Spear to all websites that had published the image.
» The Classification Committee’s finding was correct that The Spear is not pornographic.
» The Classification Committee was “heavily influenced ... by the need to affirm the dignity of African males and to protect sensitive persons and children”.
» There had been no evidence before the Classification Committee that “the painting would be harmful to children on the grounds that it seriously undermines and is insensitive to African culture”.
» The argument that the presence of nudity in the painting by default deems it “potentially disturbing, harmful or inappropriate to children” is flawed. “It would mean that every artistic work that contained nudity would be deemed presumptively harmful to children.”

» This story was updated after first published.