Sanef calls on Jacob Zuma not to sign secrecy bill

2013-11-14 13:04

The SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has appealed to President Jacob Zuma not to sign the Protection of State Information Bill into law in its current form.

“We are concerned about the provisions that allow for broad classification of information, including that which has nothing to do with security of the state and the delegated authority to undefined state officials the power to classify information,” Sanef said today.

“These provisions should be amended so that they are in line with the transparent governance system envisaged in the Constitution.”

The bill criminalises the possession and dissemination of classified state information, even if such information is in the public interest.

On Tuesday, the National Assembly gave the bill the green light, despite protests from the opposition benches.

The highly contentious bill will now go back to Zuma for signature after 225 MPs voted in favour of the proposed law and 88 voted against it.

In September, Zuma referred the bill back to the assembly, citing two sections he deemed unconstitutional. It was required to correct a cross-reference in section 42 and a punctuation error in section 45.

Sanef said MPs tasked with reviewing the unconstitutional clauses failed to reconsider all problematic provisions, opting instead to correct punctuation errors.

Sanef had repeatedly asked for the inclusion of a public interest defence clause to protect journalists and whistle-blowers.

“We believe Parliament missed an opportunity to introduce a public interest defence clause and to amend some of the provisions that will in effect criminalise transparency in governance affairs,” it said.

Sanef said it would consult its lawyer on a way forward.

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