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Joint Statement by Minister of State Security and SANEF on the Protection of Information Bill

12 November 2010

Joint statement on the engagement between Minister of State Security and SANEF on the Protection of Information Bill

South African media will be consulted on the drafting of regulations that will detail the implementation of Protection of Information legislation once the law is finalised.

This was a commitment made by the Minister of State Security, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, to the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) at a meeting in Pretoria today.

The Minister said Editors would be consulted on the drafting of the regulations to ensure that the law is not used to infringe on the work of media specifically.

The Sanef delegation had earlier set out a number of concerns it still had with the Bill, including its view for the need to insert a public interest defence clause on the publication of classified information, and the establishment of an independent review mechanism for the classification and adjudication of information.

The points raised were discussed in the two-hour meeting and the minister undertook to take Sanef’s reiterated concerns and submissions forward for discussion with government.

Today’s meeting followed discussions between Government and Sanef last month on Government’s interaction with media, and media freedom as part of South Africa’s Constitutional democracy.

Minister Cwele gave Sanef the assurance that Government viewed media as partners in building a modern democracy “even though we compete for information”.

“We need to build more synergy than see each other as opponents,” Dr Cwele said.

He said the proposed legislation would be a law of general application, without specific conditions applying to the media, because Government had no intention to muzzle media.

Sanef welcomed “softening” changes already made to the proposed legislation but argued that further checks and balances were required for the value of the changes made to date to be realised.

“The dialogue was constructive and we welcomed the minister’s transparent attitude and understanding of the role of the media and its importance in our democracy,” said Mary Papayya, SANEF Deputy Chair.