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.
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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid