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 Information Bill like 'apartheid-era legislation'

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PosOnderwerp: Information Bill like 'apartheid-era legislation'   Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:36 pm


CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA Jul 19 2010 13:54

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Sections of the government's proposed protection of information legislation are reminiscent of apartheid-era secrecy laws, according to an intelligence expert.


Not in the national interest
They also displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution, Dr Laurie Nathan said in a submission to Parliament's ad-hoc committee on the Protection of Information Bill.

Nathan was a member of the Ministerial Review Commission on Intelligence, which ran from 2006 to 2008. The parliamentary committee is holding public hearings this week on the Bill.

Nathan said that while there were legitimate grounds for protecting certain information, this should be the exception and not routine.

"The government cannot seek to avoid all possible harm that might arise from the disclosure of sensitive information," he said. "Some risk of harm has to be tolerated in a democracy because the dangers posed by secrecy -- lack of accountability, abuse of power, infringements of human rights and a culture of impunity -- can imperil the democratic order itself."

Nathan said sections 11 and 15 of the Bill, which provide for classification of sensitive material and define "the national interest" very broadly, were its most problematic.

"They provide so general and sweeping a basis for non-disclosure of information that they are reminiscent of apartheid-era secrecy legislation ... and in conflict with the constitutional right of access to information," he said.

They also clashed with the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

Nathan said the definitions would be extremely difficult to apply in practice.


CONTINUES BELOW



Officials in all organs of state would have to decide whether disclosure of particular information might harm "any matter relating to the advancement of the public good" or the "pursuit of justice, democracy, economic growth, free trade, a stable monetary system and sound international relations".

These phrases were capable of many interpretations and there would inevitably be significant inconsistencies between the classifications made by different officials.

Because the definitions of "national interest" and "national security" were so broad, they were likely to lead to a "chronic over-classification of state information", reminiscent of the apartheid era.

The two sections flowed from the belief set out in the Bill that "secrecy exists to protect the national interest".

"This line of thinking is constitutionally unsound," Nathan said.

"Since the 'national interest' includes the pursuit of justice and democracy, as stated in section 11, it is not secrecy but rather transparency and access to information that protect the national interest."

He said the Bill suggested that the Constitution's provisions on openness and access to information were "subject to the security of the Republic, in that the national security of the Republic may not
be compromised".

"This is also a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution, whose approach to security requires openness and access to information," he said.

Secrecy should instead be motivated with reference to "specified and significant" harm that might arise from the disclosure of particular information. -- Sapa
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PosOnderwerp: Re: Information Bill like 'apartheid-era legislation'   Thu Jul 22, 2010 7:25 pm

Information bill contradicts Constitution - lawyers
Government secrecy and the old National Interest demon rises in Parliament as an ad hoc committee hears debate about the controversial Protection of Information Bill
Des Latham
Published: 2010/07/22 05:07:06 PM


The Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of Information Bill has held public hearings in Cape Town today, and heard lawmakers warning that the Bill won’t survive the Constitution Test.



In one comment, Webber Wentzel partner Dario Milo said “The clauses.. highlighted, are clearly unconstitutional and the Constitutional Court would strike them down,”



He was appearing on behalf of Print Media SA.



Its the second day of hearings which have led to massive interest as media take the view government is trying to reinstitute draconian legislation which appears to be motivated by a reasonable aim.



The ANC government claims the new Bill is to protect children from paedophiles, but also includes clauses allowing government to declare any issue “national Interest”.



Investigative journalists could face up to 25 years in jail for publishing information of public interest.



The Bill goes further, by denying those accused of contravening it the right to raise the defence of having acted in the public interest.



Milo has argued that it sought to create a climate of secrecy by defining national interest and national security so widely that information could arbitrarily be classified.



The Print Media representation also states those who drafted the bill had also erred by placing the onus on journalists to justify why they should be granted access to information, rather than requiring the state to show why it should remain classified.



SAPA has quoted Raymond Louw, chairman of the SA National Editors’ Forum, submitted that the bill gave the state excessive powers to shroud information in secrecy, and had been stripped of safeguards contained in earlier versions.



“This has tightened the state’s grip on maintaining secrecy of information.





With SAPA





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PosOnderwerp: Proposed law may force reporters to reveal sources    Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:19 am



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------




2010/07/26

THE government was finalising proposals on a section of the Criminal Procedure Act which could force journalists to reveal confidential sources, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said in Johannesburg on Saturday night.

Speaking at the annual general meeting the SA National Editors’ Forum, Radebe emphasised that the ANC government would not treat the media in the manner it was treated during the apartheid years.

“As a minister of justice I want to assure you that any (new) law must be in conformity with the Constitution,” the minister said, referring to the media freedom clauses in the founding document.

Radebe was speaking against the background of increased media concern at the ANC’s proposed introduction of a State appointed media appeal tribunal to adjudicate complaints against the press, and also the restriction in the Access Protection Bill.

Radebe said the ANC had been deliberating on various issues in preparation for its national general council meeting in Durban later this year.

He expected the ANC to announce various decisions and proposals soon.

“One of these is that of information communication technology and the media.”

Referring to ongoing discussion of Section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act and other relevant sections affecting journalists, Radebe said: “We are in the process of finalising proposals in this regard.”

The SA Law Commission would also soon present its finding of research on this and other laws that the media found problematic. — Sapa

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PosOnderwerp: Re: Information Bill like 'apartheid-era legislation'   Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:54 pm

'Media may be under dire threat once more'
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA Jul 26 2010 17:38

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It seems the media in South Africa is again under dire threat of "anti-freedom" legislation reminiscent of the apartheid era, a group of three former newspaper editors said on Monday.

The three, who each spent decades opposing press censorship in the apartheid era, issued a joint statement on the draft Protection of Information Bill -- now before Parliament -- and the proposed statutory media tribunal.

Leaders of the freedom-fighting African National Congress, of the grand young United Democratic Movement, and all stalwarts who opposed apartheid would remember it was almost 20 years to the day that the press in South Africa was able to declare itself free at last, Harvey Tyson, Rex Gibson and Richard Steyn said.

"Yet there are signs now that all media may be under dire threat once more. The threat is naïve, but dangerous.

"It appears to come in an uninformed attack by a few legislators who don't like criticism," they said.

'Freedom is killed that way in most dictatorial states'
Not one, but two separate anti-freedom weapons were coming out of a corner of President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet.

The first was the Protection of Information Bill, which -- even if shorn of its follies and evil -- would remain a serious threat to freedom of information.

This kind of law would almost certainly be used at some stage as a blunt instrument by some demagogues proclaiming their love of democracy.

They would find a mosquito on the pretty face of freedom, and use this form of legislation as a sledgehammer to kill it. Then they would accuse the splattered mosquito of the "murder of our heroine".


CONTINUES BELOW



"Freedom is killed that way in most dictatorial states," the editors said. "We've seem it all before. And, under apartheid, many times."

But even worse was the second blunt instrument being forged by the democratic government -- a proposal to create an "independent" authority to discipline the media and stop "unfair" criticism.

"We choose to believe that the ANC and South African Communist Party are proposing this out of ignorance of the lessons of the past."

All should be aware that successive apartheid governments tried to enforce this blatant form of popular censorship no less than eight times in 48 years -- and failed every time, simply because the device, in every form, was too blatant and utterly crude.

If any legislators did not understand why this was so, they could easily find out from any of South Africa's independent institutions and universities, whose mission it was to uphold professional standards of journalism.

'Don't do it'
The friendly advice that anti-press government members needed at this early stage was: "Don't do it."

"Don't do it, because the inferences in the Info Bill, and the setting up of an uncalled-for legal authority to oversee media 'excesses' will injure democracy and besmirch the name of South Africa," they said.

These acts, especially the appointment of such a statutory body, would mark the first step on to a "dark and evil path".

Together they would more than cancel out all the international goodwill the country earned through hosting the Soccer World Cup.

"Pause and think for a moment how the entire world's free media will, with real justification, react."

The proposal in itself created an ominous precedent. If it succeeded it could cause history to leave a black mark against its individual perpetrators and against the current ANC and its alliance.

In the meantime, all South Africa might suffer because of it.

"For the sake of everyone, and in the name of democracy and freedom, please don't even begin to try to do it," they said.

Tyson is former editor-in-chief the Star, former member of the International Press Institute, and board member of the former Argus Company.

Gibson is ex-editor of the Rand Daily Mail, and Steyn former editor-in-chief of the Star, the Witness and a member of the International Press Institute. -- Sapa
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