Black day for press freedom


info bill nov 22

INLSA

The Right2Know campaigners march on Parliament. Photo: Gareth Smith

An 11th-hour appeal to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on Monday asked him to intervene to forestall Tuesday’s National Assembly vote on the Protection of State Information Bill, while the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) urged MPs not to support it.

Idasa wrote to Motlanthe as leader of government business in Parliament, raising concerns about the bill and the apparent failure of further consultation promised by the ANC after it temporarily shelved the bill in September.

Print and broadcast media editors were to fly to Cape Town from across the country to be in the public gallery for Tuesday’s sitting at 2pm.

The Right2Know campaign has planned protests outside Parliament and elsewhere in the country, while the National Press Club called for people to wear black in symbolic protest against “Black Tuesday”.

Given the ANC’s majority, the bill is likely to be passed. Its MPs are under a three-line whip for the vote. This does not mean the bill becomes law, as it must first be referred to the National Council of Provinces, which has the power to start a fresh round of public consultation, and to make amendments.

Cosatu affiliate the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) added its voice to the outcry on Monday: “The bill is not ready to be signed into law and set to negatively impact the noble fight against corruption.”

Municipal workers had been victimised and in some cases physically attacked for exposing corruption in local government that robbed the poor of desperately needed services, said Samwu spokesman Tahir Sema.

“Our members were only able to expose crooked tenderpreneurs, rampant cronyism and nepotism by having access to documents, and being able to use them to alert authorities (about) malpractices.

“If the Protection of Information Bill is signed into law, it will enable a whole range of municipal documents to be classified as secret, and will also serve to protect those who are misusing their positions for private and nefarious gain.”

In its letter sent to all MPs on Monday Sanef acknowledged the important work done in the past 18 months by MPs to substantially improve the Bill. But the changes had not gone far enough to “render the bill safe for democracy”.

In its current form, the bill “will limit the work of government departments, chapter nine institutions, Parliament, trades unions, the media, and civil society by choking off the flow of vital information, and restricting crucial accountability mechanisms”.

Chief among flaws in the bill was the absence of a public interest defence, “crucial to ensuring the bill does not become an instrument to suppress information that may reveal serious wrong-doing”.

“Also of serious concern is the blanket secrecy afforded our powerful intelligence structures, secrecy that shields excessively from scrutiny, and leaves little recourse when they abuse their authority.

“We recognise the need for a reformed legislative regime to govern the management of sensitive state information. You now have an opportunity to ensure such legislation advances our democracy, rather than injuring it,” Sanef told MPs. “The first step is to reject the bill by voting against it in the National Assembly.”

In their letter to Motlanthe, Idasa’s Judith February and Gary Pienaar warned against the ANC in Parliament rushing ahead with a bill “which will be the subject of a future constitutional challenge”.

They raised questions about the validity of the public consultation promised by the ANC in September.

“Regrettably, that public consultation process seemed flawed from the start. It was, at least initially, to be limited to the ANC’s own constituencies and was not part of a parliamentary process. Ordinarily, Parliament, as an institution, would call for further hearings and accept submissions from the public once more. This did not happen.”

It was also unclear how submissions the ANC might have received would filter back to Parliament.

Attempts by the Right2Know campaign – of which Idasa is a member – to try to get clarity from the ANC failed. This put a question-mark over the validity of the consultation process, it said.

“In the Doctors for Life and Matatiele cases, our Constitutional Court was clear about the requirements for public participation processes and what makes them not only legitimate but lawful,” Idasa wrote.

The ANC hastily convened meetings in provinces at the weekend and on tuesday. But reports indicated these were poorly attended.

A Right2Know activist said only 11 people pitched up for a meeting in Pretoria’s city hall on Monday, where a state security official, Dennis Dlomo, defended the bill as “protecting” South Africans against espionage, “illegal marriages and false transfer of house title deeds”.

 

Concerns included:

* Harsh prison terms of up to 25 years, with no protection for whistle-blowers, except for the most minor offences. Even those who harbour whistle-blowers may face prison sentences

* Anyone who comes into possession of a state secret faces up to 25 years in prison if they do not hand the information to the police or security services

*The bill would trump the Promotion of Access to Information Act – which promotes citizens’ right to know

* The bill seals off state security agencies from any kind of scrutiny or accountability to the public

* It has no public interest defence. - Political Bureau


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Precious, wrote

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03:58pm on 22 November 2011
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Malema come back, all is forgiven!!!!

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Anonymous, wrote

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03:35pm on 22 November 2011
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The ANC hijacks everything. They have become archetypal criminals. Today they take freedom of speech. Next will be opposition politics. Then they will destroy the economy. After that it will be every citizens assets and, as people revolt, the ANC will take their lives. Its all about state security you know? It is in your best interests to be destroyed by your government.

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harri, wrote

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03:26pm on 22 November 2011
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There is only one thing to say... The eagerness with qhich the ANC is pursuing the bill is a clear admission that have plenty to hide.

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Peter, wrote

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03:10pm on 22 November 2011
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It look like that people do not understand what democracy is. You get a voted in the parliament to represent the population. You are a member of a political party but you don't vote what the party is telling you to do. You vote what you as a MP thinks it is the best for the country. If you only can vote why the party want you to be voting than it make no sense to had an election with name of representatives. That you vote for a party and after the party make the list how will be in the parliament. That is why it is so bad to have limitation of freedom speech. If you cannot handle the word of freedom than you can not be representing your people. It is surprise that this happening in South Africa with the ANC that was based on freedom for all and now this party is limiting the word of freedom that is ...............

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Anonymous, wrote

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02:42pm on 22 November 2011
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Guaranteed MP's that will vote yes to the bill: YOu guessesd it the ones who have been in the papers for corruption and fraud and whose "investigations" have been conveniently swept under the rug for months and months without any decisions by the chief gansta Mr. Showerhead. This is a problem because I dont know a single member of the ANC gangstas that is not crooked. We dont stand much hope.

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Anonymous, wrote

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02:41pm on 22 November 2011
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Why dont they just be honest (lol like the ANC has ever spoken an honest word) and call it the protection of the corrupt bill?

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MASAKANE, wrote

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02:22pm on 22 November 2011
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how many people did not want The President to take that Office because of allegations and cases against him, that was the majority of South African, today he is the President, the people in parliament are not representing us the voters they are representing their own interests, the majority of us are saying tha bill is not the right way to go, but it will be the law, we were so used to aphrtheid that sometimes we even could not notice that this things are part of oppression, we will be used to The New Apartheid, but they must not forget that we are getting fedup

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Dave Rutherford, wrote

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02:12pm on 22 November 2011
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It's sad to see that so many people comment on this outrage but so few are prepared to provide their names. Being anonymous devalues your comment.

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Albatros, wrote

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01:19pm on 22 November 2011
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@Anonymous 10.56. I didn't say the voting system was corrupt, I said the reason they would vote FOR the bill was because they WERE corrupt and basically wanting the media, and the likes, off their backs so that they can elude prison and still have the opportunity to do corrupt things. Savvy? As for freedom of speech which they are trying to stop, I would expect that in any democratic system the governing party's MP's would reserve their right to "freedom" when it comes to voting yes or no. If that wasn't the case then why would they vote at all? In your eyes they HAVE to vote with the Party irrespective whether they agree with it or not. That, my dear fellow, or should I say... comrade is not very democratic at all. Also, if that was the case the ANC would have just passed the bill without a vote. I take it you understand what voting is all about. Or do you?

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Clyde, wrote

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01:10pm on 22 November 2011
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Why do ur polititions fear the people's right to know if they are doing wrong. In the previous dispensation we did not this and now the current dispensation want's to take our democratic rights away. Are we moving back to the apartheid state or are leaders hiding more than what we already know?

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Stanley, wrote

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12:27pm on 22 November 2011
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Mr. Maharaj is using snake-like language tactics, even as Shaick & kie. has been using before, and lo and behold, the guy is still not dead yet! Bl@$$% bunch of fork-tongued (alledged) liers... we know where they will land if they don't repent in time!

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narits, wrote

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12:26pm on 22 November 2011
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Transperency is honesty at its best..we need to know and why should we revert to apartheid style of doing things..remind me again aren't we a democratic state after all

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Lupercus, wrote

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12:16pm on 22 November 2011
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The beginning of the end for democracy in our country. History is just repeating itself. Every African state that has achieved "freedom" had gone the same way, and failed. The next step of course is a "one party" system or a "dictatorship". The ANC has made it clear, via Affirmative Action, Black Economic Empowerment, the Equity Bill and draconian labour laws that Communistic system is the end goal, (despite it having failed worldwide), and all persons having a skin colour other than black will be denied their constitutional rights. In fact, the black people who disagree with the ANC will also find they are out in the cold. Our country has only another 10 years before we hit the wall. And economic disaster will follow.

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Sibahle Mthethwa, wrote

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11:39am on 22 November 2011
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DEMOCRACY!!!! Media is meant to be the watchdog... What's wrong with South Africa?????????????????

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russell travers, wrote

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11:13am on 22 November 2011
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The anc government are a dangerous bunch of dishonest and manipulative gangsters. They are afraid of freedom because that is where truth lives. They steal anything of value and now they want our freedom. Pathetic but true.

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Stan, wrote

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11:10am on 22 November 2011
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Why was the money (alleged bribes?) paid to overseas accounts like the Virgin Islands? We have nice banks right here in SA, and they are even connected to the internet nogal!

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Stanley, wrote

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11:03am on 22 November 2011
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I see Bishop Tutu at least is speaking out. That is a good thing. Is there a possibility for anyone with legit info on the govt corruption and also their cronies' to publish forward send it to the word press wiki's before the bill is passed? Groot asseblief! We freedom-loving, truth-declaring, taxed-to-debt legit citizens of South Africa need these info and also a tax break! Speak, Tutu, speak! Please don't let no rock outcry you, for if your voice is silenced, maybe the rocks should start their campaign of protest (biblically speaking... )

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:56am on 22 November 2011
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@Albatross Since when is a vote of the majority of the elected MP's for the majority party a sign of corruption? Wake up, if you are elected by the ruling party you are expected to vote for the party. So if I understand you that the MP must exercise freedom speech even they have their position based on standing for the party they beleive in. Really? Ignorance is Bliss.

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Pat, wrote

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10:43am on 22 November 2011
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WRONG WRONG WRONG! Government are the SERVANTS of the people and CUSTODIANS of our country. Their dealings must be transparent. This is unacceptable. We need new government and we need it now. Anyone but the ANC.

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Lee, wrote

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10:40am on 22 November 2011
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And who is it that we (SouthAfrican + SouthAfricans)need to be protected from - OTHER than the "protectors" themselves!!??

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