South Africa: Secrecy Bill Is Still Fundamentally Flawed and Needs to Be Reconsidered

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The Secrecy Bill needs to be completely reconsidered by Parliament. Various versions of the bill have been amended in a piecemeal fashion that has fundamentally undermined its coherence. As a result, the defective provisions of the bill, when taken together, compound the potential for infringement of rights.

We applaud President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to send the Protection of State Information Bill (the "Secrecy Bill") back to Parliament, but we respectfully call on him to expand the grounds for reconsideration of its unconstitutionality.

The stark reality is that the protection of information held by the state is currently governed by apartheid-era legislation still on the statute books. Parliament has twice - in 2008 and 2010 - attempted to introduce legislation intended to repeal and replace the Protection of Information Act, 1982.

These attempts were met by broad public opposition on the basis that those bills facilitated excessive degrees of government secrecy and, if passed, would violate the right to freedom of expression.

The second of these bills, in its eighth iteration and issued in 2013, has now been referred back to Parliament by Ramaphosa for an unprecedented second time for reconsideration due to concerns about its constitutionality.

The undersigned signatories agree...

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