Protest against gag bill set to intensify

Published Dec 1, 2011


The decibels of protests against the secrecy bill will be amplified when civil society organisations, the media fraternity and Cosatu convene a summit next year.

The summit, aimed at raising the heat against some clauses in the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, is expected to take place before the opening of Parliament.

If MPs fail to hear, Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi says they will organise a march to the Union Buildings to petition President Jacob Zuma against signing the bill into law.

The bill – whose broad definition of national security closes any room for whistleblowers, citizens and the media to expose corruption – was passed by an ANC-dominated National Assembly and has been referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

The passing of the bill in the National Assembly has intensified an 18-month public protest by journalists and civil society.

Vavi said he was reassured by some in the NCOP that all concerns against the bill would be considered.

“If all fails… and the NCOP passes it in its current form… What we are looking for is a march to the Union Buildings, to the president, and appeal to him not to sign it.”

If this failed they would devise a legal strategy to approach the Constitutional Court and avoid unco-ordinated legal challenges.

Vavi was speaking at a press conference in Joburg after meeting the SA National Editors’ Forum and the Right2Know Campaign. The union federation and the organisations have agreed to embark on awareness campaigns and to convene the summit.

Sanef chairman Mondli Makhanya cautioned that they were not anti-government but “we seek to protect and deepen our democracy.

“We want to say to the ANC and to the government, ‘you cannot be on the wrong side of the constitution, you cannot be on the wrong side of the Freedom Charter or public opinion’,” he said.

Dale McKinley, from the Right2Know Campaign, said the strategy was to “emphasise the voices of ordinary people.

“We appeal to those in the ANC and the alliance to also come on board,” he said. - The Star

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