News / Africa

South Africa Close to Passing 'Secrecy' Bill

FILE - Activists and supporters of the Right2Know Campaign hold a night vigil outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, Sept. 19, 2011.FILE - Activists and supporters of the Right2Know Campaign hold a night vigil outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, Sept. 19, 2011.
x
FILE - Activists and supporters of the Right2Know Campaign hold a night vigil outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, Sept. 19, 2011.
FILE - Activists and supporters of the Right2Know Campaign hold a night vigil outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, Sept. 19, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Anita Powell
— South African legislators are looking at a final draft of the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, a proposed law that critics say would seriously curtail freedoms in Africa’s most prominent democracy.  

It is a familiar journalism scenario: An intrepid reporter publishes a story exposing corruption by a top official; the president promptly fires the official from his post.

In South Africa, however, this scenario is the subject of intense debate. The day after publishing his expose of police commissioner Bheki Cele in 2010, reporter Mzilikazi wa Afrika was arrested and charged with fraud and "defeating the ends of justice."

Critics say that outcome could become increasingly common if South Africa’s government passes the Protection of State Information Bill.

The bill grants public officials the right to classify information as secret. Those who publish classified information could face jail time of up to 25 years.

The National Assembly passed the bill Tuesday, despite objections from opposition parties. From there it will go to the National Council of Provinces and then back to the National Assembly, a process that could be wrapped up in just a few days.

Officials who back the bill say it would protect valuable state information against espionage. The bill has support from the ruling African National Congress party, which dominates parliament.

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj declined to comment on behalf of President Jacob Zuma, who previously has indicated support for the bill, as Maharaj said it would be inappropriate to interfere with legislators’ debate. It will be up to Zuma to ultimately sign the bill into law.

Murray Hunter is a national representative of the Right2Know Campaign, which opposes the bill. He says activists and lawmakers who objected to it have succeeded in softening some of its harsher clauses, but that it is still too harsh.

“And we feel that there’s much to be concerned about the law and what it potentially means for the state of openness in South African democracy," said Hunter. "And the reason I say that is that whenever a law gives potential for abuse, when it classifies information as secret, it potentially jeopardizes both the safety and the freedom of whistleblowers in the civil service, or the public service, who are seeking to expose wrongdoing. It also potentially criminalizes or jeopardizes, journalists... and activists, and ultimately has the effect of shutting the public out of government processes.”

Many prominent media houses - both local and international - have spoken out against previous versions of the bill. With parliamentary approval looking likely, though, it might be here to stay.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: oneye from: usa
April 24, 2013 12:05 AM
i left sa in 1976 when there was no freedom of the press. i return in 2013 to find no freedom of the press. there is no excuse. the usa has freedom of speech as the first amendment, the only one that may not be abrogated by the others, including security. the press is called the fourth estate for good reason. without it, democracy is gone. how did this get left out of the new constitution? the anc has betrayed the revolution, and pretends it is under military attack. it is now just another totalitarian rag, with indecency and obscene violence as its primary tools.

for this opinion i can be arrested. how undemocratic, indecent and obscene.


by: Mbasawe Enchata from: South Africa
April 23, 2013 7:36 PM
so many SAs are pining nostalgically for apartheid. De facto, nothing has changed, the races are as separated as ever, but really, no one here want to be ruled by the majority of corrupt degenerates... AIDS and crime is through the roof... large scale thievery by political office holders is running rampant... as I said, way too many here are pining for the old Apartheid.


by: Nobucks from: Cape Town
April 23, 2013 5:33 PM
This article does not do the situation in SA justice. No mention of the INCOMPREHENSIBLE levels of corruption. South Africa is losing literally billions of dollars to "government officials" who's main day to day concern is how to keep swindling on an ever increasing scale. 350 years in the making to become the most developed country on the continent.
Let's see how long it will take for all that hard work to be undone.
The African way is to look backwards to their ancestors, and to always remember how they've been wronged. For the tiny percent who have ascended to the exclusive golden mafia of government, now is their time to consume.
The culture will never let them look at our history from the perspective of what happened here as being the most vital thing to the survival of the African person in Africa.

This is not about who's culture is better. The big picture is that all members of the human species need to be in the same general "ball park" in terms of human development.
It's been happening practically from the beginning of life and human existence, one dominating another.
Would I feel different if I had been born a black African instead of a white one, maybe. No matter how I would feel, it doesnt change the fact that the people of Africa needed to catch up with the rest of the advancing world around it, or be left behind to an inevitable divergence and extinction. Sounds dramatic, but you suggest that maybe the alternative was for the rest of the world to just fly over africa, to never set foot on this continent, maybe they would have come up with the internet and space flight on their own?. It is because we are human that we are able to use our intellect to work around some of natures laws, but it is impossible to be correct in thinking that the greatest law governing life itself, SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST does not apply to us.

Maybe if I wrote another thousand words, I could cover up every potential angle of attack to my argument, but im not going to bother.

The massive head start this county was given at the expense of the hundreds of thousands of lives it took to get it to this point, just to watch it being thrown away for the personal gain of a small few.

The secrecy bill is another chunk of the country sinking into the abyss, and it's happening right in front of our eyes.


by: Kelebogile from: Bloemfontein
April 23, 2013 4:09 PM
These old legislators that live in the past will not be able to control social media, the catalyst of the Arab Spring Revolution.There are many ways to expose and report about corruption.


by: Help Us from: South Africa
April 23, 2013 3:36 PM
Dear Anonymous, please bring all SA Internet services - especially those run by the government - to it's knees in protest. For at least long enough so as to cripple them, so they can see who's in charge: the people.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid