‘Govt unfazed by Info bill threats’

2011-11-30 00:00

THE government remains unfazed by threats from opposition parties, the media and the civil organisations that they will take the controversial Promotion of State Information bill to the Constitutional Court if it is signed into law, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said in Durban yesterday.

Addressing the first interaction with the media since the hotly contested bill went through parliament last week, Cwele said the bill was severely scrutinised by senior advocates to ensure its constitutionality before introducing it to parliament.

“We are not threatened by that because the court is the arbiter in our democratic system if there are disagreements … Those who are still convinced that the bill is unconstitutional have got all the right to take it to the Constitutional Court.”

Regarding the absence of a public interest clause, Cwele said the bill has been amended to ensure that it is not abused by the heads of organs of state, as those found guilty of its abuse will, according to the bill, face a jail term of between five and 15 years.

“The media is an important component in our society. Our department also has no mandate to silence the media,” Cwele said.

Murray Hunter of the Right to Know Campaign said Cwele is relying on the Public Defence Act to account for shortcomings in the secrecy bill.

The act was never written to be used in conjunction with a high-level secrecy bill as it merely prevents an employee from being fired for being a whistleblower, and does not protect parties who receive the information, he said.

• skhumbuzo.miya@witness.co.za

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