24 April 2012
Sanef troubled by Defence Ministry’s clamps on information
The SA National Editors’ Forum is becoming increasingly concerned at reports that the Minister of Defence is drawing a cloak of secrecy over the operations of the state’s military, naval and air forces.
Minister Sisulu has refused to answer questions about the planes that “shadowed” Zuma’s flight to the United States. She referred questioners to a previous answer she had supplied which stated that information about flight schedules for the “president and other principles” was “confidential” due to “safety considerations” and that the information “cannot be in the public domain”.
The minister has also refused to answer questions about faults that developed in the aircraft in which Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was a passenger resulting in a forced landing on one occasion and he having to abort a visit to a foreign country on another.
Minister Sisulu has defended her refusal to answer these important questions on the basis that the information is classified.
Sanef is concerned that these refusals by the Defence Ministry to supply information are further alarming manifestations of the government’s desires to clamp down on information, the prime example of this being the Protection of State Information Bill.
Sanef maintained in its opposition to the bill that classification provisions should apply only to state security matters defined extremely narrowly. Such treatment should be scrupulously applied to Defence Ministry information. Sanef points out that information about flights by the former President Thabo Mbeki were supplied openly in Parliament without any reference to security or classification.
Sanef calls on the Defence minister and her colleagues in government to stop raising barriers against informing the public about important matters of public interest and to pursue the constitutional aims of an open and transparent society. Sanef also fears that in the current environment of the government aspiring to cloak its operations in secrecy, the Defence Minister’s questionable application of the constitution may inspire other ministers to invent parliamentary rules to enable their reports, or parts of them, to be kept secret.
Issued by the SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)
SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)
Tel: +27 (0) 11 484 3630 / +27 (0) 11 484 3617
Fax: +27 (0) 11 484 3593
Mobile: +27 (0) 84 784 2006