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Media, ANC, meet over gag bill

Protesters gathered outside Parliament ahead of the National Assembly's vote on the proposed Secrecy Bill. Photo: Kim Kay, IOL

Protesters gathered outside Parliament ahead of the National Assembly's vote on the proposed Secrecy Bill. Photo: Kim Kay, IOL

Published Dec 6, 2011

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The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef), the ruling ANC and Media Monitoring Africa met on Tuesday to discuss the Protection of State Information Bill.

ANC parliamentary spokesman Moloto Mothapo said the meeting allowed parties to listen to each other – “beyond the noise that has been created in the media where we were speaking past each other”.

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The draft was passed on November 22 in the National Assembly by 229 votes to 107.

Several newspapers ran front page editorials saying the bill would criminalise the use of classified information to expose government corruption.

Mothapo said the main contentious area was the absence of a so-called “public interest” defence which could be raised to protect a journalist or whistleblower.

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“Sanef did raise and amplify its concerns regarding that matter [and] the ANC also used the opportunity to present its case on this particular matter.

“The meeting was not intended to make amendments, it was intended to really listen to each other and understand where each other comes from,” he said.

The parties agreed to keep on talking.

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Mothapo said the National Council of Provinces would meet on Wednesday to set a schedule for its consideration of the bill. The process would include public consultation and written and oral hearings, he said.

Sanef said it would take part in this process.

Those present at Tuesday's meeting included ANC Chief Whip in Parliament Mathole Motshekga, ANC MP Luwellyn Landers, Sanef chairman Mondli Makhanya, deputy editor of The Star Jovial Rantao, Mail&Guardian editor Nic Dawes, and City Press editor Ferial Haffajee. – Sapa

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