19 September 2011
Sanef welcomes the decision of the ANC to delay voting on the Protection of State Information Bill, pending further consultation.
This is an important opportunity to ensure that the proposed legislation meets the standards required in an open and democratic society.
Despite improvements wrought during the parliamentary process, the bill remains deeply flawed. It fails appropriately to weigh the state’s legitimate need for secrecy in narrowly defined matters of national security against the rights of all South Africans to freedom of speech and access to information. If it is to replace the existing, unconstitutional classification regime as an instrument worthy of our democracy the Bill must undergo further important changes.
A law worthy of our democracy cannot criminalise the publication of information that reveals corruption, human rights abuses, or the abuse of state resources for political ends.
It must ensure that the grounds of classification are sufficiently narrow to prevent officials from using it to draw a veil of secrecy across the workings of government.
It must enable appropriate public scrutiny of our powerful intelligence and security services. And it must do so in a fashion which maximises transparency and accountability in the classification process.
Much progress has already been made. We look forward to participating in the ongoing process of getting this important piece of legislation right.
Issued by the SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)