Sanef Media Release: 14 November 2013
The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) appeals to President Jacob Zuma not to sign the Protection of State Information Bill (POSIB) into law in its current form.
When referring the Bill back to parliament for reconsideration, President Zuma said it was obvious that the Bill contained clauses which would not pass constitutional scrutiny. The Bill criminalises the possession and dissemination of classified state information even if such information is in the public interest.
Sanef has consistently argued for the inclusion of a public interest defence clause to protect journalists and whistleblowers.
MPs tasked with reviewing the unconstitutional clauses failed to reconsider all problematic provisions, opting instead to correct punctuation errors. We believe Parliament missed an opportunity to introduce a public interest defence clause and to amend some of the provisions that will effectively criminalise transparency in governance affairs.
The Bill criminalises the possession and dissemination of classified state information even if such information is in the public interest.
Sanef is concerned about the provisions that allow for broad classification of information, including that which has nothing to do with security of the state, and the delegated authority to undefined state officials the power to classify information.
These provisions should be amended so that they are in line with the transparent governance system envisaged in the Constitution.
We will consult with our lawyers about the way forward.