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The controversial Protection of Information Bill has been attracting international attention, most of it unfavourable, as it heads towards adoption in Parliament.
Newspapers in the US and Britain especially have written about the so-called “secrecy bill”, focusing on sharp criticism of it by people such as Nobel Prize for Literature winner and ANC member Nadine Gordimer.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph said Gordimer had warned that, through the bill, the ANC was taking South Africa “back to the suppression of free expression” of the apartheid era.
“Her intervention is hugely significant,” the paper said. “Gordimer was a close friend of Nelson Mandela (he read her novel Burger’s Daughter in jail in Robben Island and asked her to visit as soon as he came out) and she helped lead the fight against apartheid in her native South Africa.”
The Telegraph also quoted Gordimer as saying: “People have fought and died to gain the opportunity for a better life, which is ruined and dirtied by corruption. The corrupt practices and nepotism that they allow themselves is exposed if we have freedom of expression.”
The Voice of America said: “The measure would update apartheid-era provisions, and punish those who publish classified information with up to 25 years in jail.
“Critics say the proposed law is extreme, and have argued for a clause that allows revealing state secrets in the public interest.”
The Washington Post noted that Gordimer was one of many critics of the bill, who also included “prominent ANC members… among them a former state security minister (Ronnie Kasrils)”.
Critics “within and outside the governing party” had warned the legislation “would smother freedom of expression and make it harder to fight corruption”.
The Washington Post also noted the fears of activists that for South Africa – “known for one of the continent’s freest and most open constitutions” – to pass such legislation – “could influence other countries in the region”.
When the bill was introduced last year, along with a proposal for a media tribunal, the Wall Street Journal said the measures “could reshape South Africa’s media industry”.
As the bill got closer to being put to the vote, the newspaper said the “tensions over the media are part of a searching national debate over the political course of a key African democracy”.
It quoted Anton Harber, head of the Wits Journalism School, as warning that other African countries looked up to South Africa and the bill was a “bad example for the rest of the continent”.
The Christian Science Monitor said the ANC was “close to dramatically restricting the rights of citizens to monitor the actions of their government officials”.
It had earlier quoted Karin Karlekar, managing editor of the Freedom of the Press report for Freedom House in New York, as saying: “We see this as part of a broader trend in South Africa, and it’s very worrying.”
The Monitor said Freedom House had downgraded South Africa from “free” to “partly free”, in its Freedom of the Press rankings.
“Historically, South Africa was one of the top performers in the past 15 years, as a model for other African countries,” Karlekar said. “In South Africa, as in other countries, the media are one of the watchdogs of society in support of good governance in institutions, and to take (it) away… weakens democracy as a whole.”
The Monitor also noted: “Curiously, some African countries – notably Kenya and Nigeria – have moved in the opposite direction… enshrining the freedom of information… Nigeria enacted a Freedom of Information law.”
But it also quoted analyst Steven Friedman, director of the Democracy and Governance programme at the University of Johannesburg, as saying although the bill was “horrible”, there was “no way this legislation is going to shut down investigative journalism”.
Friedman cited the clauses “that say you can’t classify information in order to cover up government incompetence, or to protect the government from embarrassment”.
US embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said: “The US supports the freedom of the press, and the public’s right to hold governments and government officials accountable. We hope the government, civil society, activists, NGOs and media continue a dialogue to seek common ground on this critical issue.”
khetho mhlongo, wrote
I THINK THE PRESIDENT MR JACOB ZUMA DID'NT THINK BEFORE HE INTRODUCED THIS LAW,IT IS TIME FOR CHANGE AND FOR SOUTH AFRICA TO BECOME A FREE AN DEMOCRATIC NATION NOT TO BE A CENSORED MEDIA TERRITORY.MR4 JACOB ZUMA HAS TO THINK BEFORE HE MAKES SUCH DECISIONS BECAUSE IF NOT,2012 HERE WE COME HE SALL BE VOTED OUT!
Before when we had apartheid it was a small minority of whites and associates who abused power and human rights. Now we have more racism and yet another minority in the form of the ANC leadership and their comrades who have reversed all the gains that South Africa struggled so hard to eliminate and are bringing back a system far worse than apartheid, more racist, more corrupt and unaccountable. Everyone is supposed to be equal and treated without discrimination and have freedoms enshrined by the Constitution. This constitution is turning out to be a white elephant like our stadiusm and not worth the paper it is written on.
Why is this bill called the "Protection of Information" bill? It is in actual fact the "Suppression of Information" Bill and is in direct contradiction to our Constitution. The ANC promised "transparency" when they first gained power. Now they are sorry they did so. With all the corruption, fraud, theft of public funds, awarding of fraudulent tenders to ex "comrades" and other politically connected persons, we are the laughing stock of the world. Are we seeing the first steps towards a dictatorship? Or a one party state, just as all the other African states, which obtained "freedom", have opted for? The ANC have become more hypocritical that the Nationalists ever were. At least the Nats. protected their own, the ANC care only for themselves individually. Affirmative Action, Black Economic Empowerment, the Equity Bill and now the Suppression of Information Bill, all aimed at the constitutional rights of our citizens, of all colours. If Zuma is honest he would have resigned a long way back. But having not resigned he should have acted against Malema, should have investigated Radebe, should had Shaik put away indefinitely and not pardoned, and left the Scorpions in place. And stopped interfering with the course of justice. Zuma must go, if he gets in for another term this country will end in anarchy.
Have American's even bothered reading our constitution... freest and most open, yeah right. Our constitution still allows discrimination, as long as it is fair. How is dicrimination ever fair.
Just a note to consider, the New Zealand Herald reporters are NOT allowed to report anything that Immigraiton does to Migrants that come into NZ. So basically the outside world thinks people get treated well, fairly! When they don't! What kind of example and message is SA sending to the rest of the world? Just when SA is looking good again for people to come and visit and invest then the SA government pulls a stunt like this.. Well done !! Every South African should be soooo proud !! (Disgusting)
25 years jail time? Bloody agents! Yet, robbers, murderers and rapists get far less. SA Government is.... that was censored!
The ANC cannot govern through competence and therefore uses its power to legalize the illegal
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