28 November 2012

South Africa: Sanef Calls On NCOP Members to Show Their Independence By Voting Against the 'Secrecy' Bill

press release

The SA National Editors' Forum (SANEF) has been working since 2008 alongside other organisations to demonstrate to members of parliament that the Protection of State Information Bill makes serious and unconstitutional inroads into freedom of information and of the media.

Since then, the chorus of criticism of the bill has increasingly been heard by South Africans from all walks of life, and by some of those doing the detailed work of taking the bill through the legislature.

At various points in the process, members of the National Assembly and more recently the National Council of Provinces have proposed important changes which, while they did not go far enough, indicated a willingness to ameliorate the worst aspects of the legislation.

Most of those changes have since been undone, and the bill in its current form is a clear and present danger to open democracy.

Representatives of both the majority party, and opposition parties in the NCOP's ad hoc committee on the bill however, have stood up to pressure from the Minister of State Security, Siyabonga Cwele, to remove some of the safeguards they had earlier decided to include. We hope that many more will now find their voices.

Tomorrow the Bill comes to the full National Council of Provinces for a vote, and we call on Members to take this final opportunity to reject it outright, by voting against the bill.

By doing so they can send a clear message that the Protection of State Information Bill must be thoroughly redrafted to ensure that state secrecy is narrowly defined, the powers of bureaucrats and security officials limited, and basic constitutional principles respected.

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