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South African Lawmakers Pass State Secrets Bill


Members of the media and protesters chat to a worker outside the ruling African National Congress headquarters during a protest against the passing of new laws on state secrets in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 22, 2011.

Members of the media and protesters chat to a worker outside the ruling African National Congress headquarters during a protest against the passing of new laws on state secrets in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 22, 2011.

The South African parliament has passed a bill aimed at protecting state secrets that opponents say will stifle the media and those who expose corruption.

Lawmakers adopted the bill by a vote of 229 to 107 Tuesday, with much of the support coming from the ruling African National Congress party.

The legislation prohibits the release of classified documents, even if the information contains details that could benefit the public. Those who publish classified information could face up to 25 years in jail.

Critics of the bill held protests Tuesday at ANC headquarters, wearing black to show their opposition - a reference to a 1970s apartheid-era press crackdown.

Opponents of the bill include Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, who said the the law is "insulting" to South Africans, and that it would effectively outlaw whistle-blowing and investigative journalism.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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