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The Protection of State Information Bill will bar people from standing up for their rights says Durban community activist Desmond D’Sa, as the Right2Know Campaign prepared for national pickets against the bill today.
In Durban, people are expected to protest outside the City Hall from 12pm to 2pm.
Reflecting on his experiences during apartheid, D’Sa said activists were barred from questioning or criticising the government.
“There were large numbers of arrests, which silenced people; they just went into their corners.
“The secrecy bill is the same; it will put fear in people’s hearts. People will stop standing up (for their rights) in a peaceful way. We will mobilise the masses and challenge it. Even if it is passed, we will challenge it and encourage people to stand up. Like we did in apartheid, we will do it again,” he said.
If passed into law, the controversial bill will empower the government to classify information and jail those who reveal such information.
Disclosing information deemed harmful to national interests would carry jail terms of three to 25 years, without the option of a fine.
The media will not be able to claim it had acted in the public interest if it violated or was party to the violation of the law, or published classified information to substantiate a report on, for example, malpractice or corruption in government. Critics of the bill say it is unconstitutional because it fails to include a public interest defence clause.
Former struggle journalist Marimuthu Subramoney, 65, who was banned and placed under house arrest for three years in the 1980s, said nothing should be hidden in the new South Africa and that the government should give the bill more thought.
“I’m not in support of the bill. We worked too hard to achieve a non-racial South Africa. We shouldn’t have anything to hide in the new South Africa.
“The bill will just increase our problems. Anything that the government does should be open to public scrutiny,” said Govender.