Cape Town - A government advertising campaign on the Protection of State Information Bill has angered the DA, which says it will lodge a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

“The campaign... seeks to persuade the public that the purpose of the bill is to protect personal information, such as birth certificates and drivers' licences,” Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said in a statement.

However, the adverts - in print and on radio and TV - focused on “a narrow and largely irrelevant” aspect of the bill.

“(This)... is disingenuous, as no mention is made of the bill's range of controversial implications.”

There was no reference to its serious implications for press freedom, or its potential repercussions for corruption whistle-blowers.

“The DA will today lodge a formal complaint with the ASA regarding the pro-secrecy bill advertising campaign launched last week by the department of state security.

“In addition... I will also be writing to National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Johannes Mahlangu to raise my concerns about government launching a media offensive on a matter that is currently before Parliament.”

The department's decision to “engage in this propaganda campaign” on a piece of legislation that was still being deliberated on, and had yet to be signed into law, showed a clear disregard for the separation of powers, Mazibuko said.

The advertisements appeared to breach three key provisions of the ASA's advertising code dealing with honesty, fear and truthful representation.

“This propaganda campaign is an obvious attempt by State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele's department to misrepresent the bill, as a means of fighting back against the overwhelming rejection of the draft legislation by the South African people,” she said.

The department of state security was not immediately available for comment. - Sapa