The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) notes that the National Assembly is due to vote on Thursday on the Protection of State Information Bıll, following changes suggested by the National Council of Provinces.
Those changes have improved the proposed legislation in important ways, but they do not go far enough. The bill still has the potential to be used as an instrument of secrecy in a democracy that can only thrive in a climate of openness.
If, as expected, the National Assembly passes the legislation in its current form, President Jacob Zuma has the option to refer it to the Constitutional Court. That is an opportunity he must avail himself of. Members of parliament, too, can send the legislation for constitutional review before it becomes law. We have already seen how a process of public engagement has improved the Bill . A full review by the highest court in the land would significantly advance that process, and help to ensure that remaining concerns about its constitutionality are fully addressed.
Sanef is ready to participate in such court process, and in the absence of a process initiated by parliament or the President will make application for a court review.
This is important legislation which affects the most basic rights of all South Africans, and we can only benefit by ensuring that its final form complies rigorously with constitutional precepts.