Cape Twon 271010 Alan Storey satnds in front of paliment protesting agains the Secrecy Bill. Close to 500 people marched to Parliment as part of the Right To Know Campaign to stop the Secrecy Bill. picture : neil baynes

The SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) has called on all members of Parliament to vote against the Protection of State Information Bill, citing concerns over the absence of a public interest defence, and that it would allow intelligence organisations to abuse their authority.

Sanef has also called the draft law “terrible” saying that the fight against it must be intensified.

In a letter distributed to MPs on Monday, the eve before the National Assembly was due to vote on the so-called “secrecy” or “info bill”, Sanef said that in its current form, the bill represented an attack on the principles of open democracy that were deeply embedded in the constitution and national life.

“It will limit the work of government departments, Chapter Nine institutions (those institutions that are constitutionally mandated and protected), Parliament, trade unions, the media, and civil society by choking off the flow of vital information, and restricting crucial accountability mechanisms,” the Sanef letter said.

Sanef praised the work of Parliament's ad-hoc committee that examined the draft law for 18 months and incorporated the concerns of the media, Chapter Nine institutions and civil society.

However, Sanef said, while the changes were necessary and valuable, they were not sufficient to render the Bill safe for democracy.

Apart from sending the letter to the politicians, Sanef also encouraged its members to use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to create a cyber-storm of protest.

Meanwhile the Parliamentary Gallery Association (PGA), the representative body for journalists who work in Parliament, has requested its members to wear black and to gather in the legislature just ahead of the 14:00 debate on Tuesday.

The colour black was chosen in remembrance of “Black Wednesday”, when, in 1977, the apartheid government shut down newspapers and interned several journalists. - I-Net Bridge