Info Bill will harm press freedom - Sanef

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A Right2know campaign protest against the protection of State information Bill. File picture: Antoine de Ras

Johannesburg - The Protection of State Information Bill must be sent to the Constitutional Court for ratification before it is signed into law, the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) said on Saturday.

In a statement to mark International Press Freedom Day, Sanef chairman Mpumelelo Mkhabela said a public interest defence clause in the bill would truly enhance the ability of media to assist in the fight against corruption.

“We therefore reiterate our call on this day, to the ANC and President Jacob Zuma in particular, to send the bill to the Constitutional Court for ratification before signing it into law,” he said.

“The bill is arguably the biggest threat to press freedom and freedom of expression since the dawn of democracy. We stand ready to challenge it in court should the president sign it into law.”

This year's press freedom celebrations coincide with South Africa's 20th anniversary of the demise of apartheid and the advent of democracy.

Mkhabela said the landscape for media in South Africa had been transformed and numerous media outlets in the print, broadcast and digital space had been established, ensuring diversity in the sector.

“Ownership in print is still a sticking point but the blueprint was laid last year by the print and digital media transformation task team which provides the industry with a way forward. We call on them to act on the recommendations.”

Last year, the task team report found that print and digital media had failed to sufficiently transform in terms of ownership, management control, skills development, and employment equity, especially with reference to women and the disabled.

The industry achieved more in areas such as socio-economic development, preferential procurement, and, in certain cases, enterprise development.

Mkhabela also urged African governments to speak out against the persecution of journalists in countries like Swaziland.

“Closer to home, Swaziland continues to deny basic freedoms to its people and recently arrested and jailed a journalist for an article critical of the judiciary in that country,” he said.

“The silence of African governments and the general African public on all these violations is a cause for grave concern for Sanef and we call on the SA government to raise these issues publicly at appropriate forums.” - Sapa


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