Legal opinion submitted on Secrecy Bill

Johannesburg - AfriForum has submitted new legal opinion on the Protection of State Information Bill to President Jacob Zuma to address various concerns, deputy CEO Ernst Roets said in a statement on Tuesday.

“AfriForum has submitted a legal opinion drafted by a senior counsel and media specialist to the state president, containing objections to the final version of the Protection of State Information Bill on the grounds of unconstitutionality,” Roets said.

A protester holds a placard reading 'Secret State, don't let the info bill see the light of day" during a anti Info Bill protest at parliament. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam). Credit: AP

He said the bill known as the “Secrecy Bill” was currently on Zuma's table and ready to be signed.

“The legal opinion points out that various objections to the bill raised by AfriForum in the past have been taken into account, but several flaws still remain,” Roets said.

He said the bill's attempts to define negligence departed from the standard definition as used for many years in the courts and common law.

The bill proposed a much narrower definition and discriminated against people accused in terms of it, Roets said.

AfriForum was concerned that red tape would lead to a slow decision making process which would leave the public in the dark.

“Timeframes should be set for the finalisation of classification, including ratification by the Revision Council,” he said.

Roets said an overarching problem was that no list of classified material existed.

“AfriForum believes that publication of information classified as secret by the state should be allowed, should the suspicion arise that the classification thereof was irregular.

“The bill requires more than suspicion. The bill is vague in this regard.”