SA’s ‘climate of secrecy’

2014-09-11 00:00

A SCATHING report issued by information freedom advocacy group Right2Know, has highlighted a “climate of secrecy” — a trend that they claim denigrates democracy.

The annual “Secret State of the Nation Report”, released this week, maps the growing climate of secrecy in South Africa.

The advocacy lobby group examined the application of several keys pieces of legislation which they say stifles debate, undermines accountability and protects the powerful from scrutiny.

“Secrecy is sometimes necessary to protect human life or a person’s legitimate claim to privacy. But ­secrecy is easily misused, and when this happens, it becomes a tool to protect the powerful.

“Our findings underscore the need for continued, unified action to resist a growing culture of secrecy and authoritarianism,” it reads.

Among the most important findings of the report was the rise in the intercepted phone calls by intelligence services.

“The number of authorisations to intercept users’ communications more than doubled between 2008 and 2011, an increase of more than 170%. The number then drops sharply again, which may mean some interception is happening without the authorisation of a judge,” it reads.

The report also revealed that in a three-year period, over three million “interceptions” were made while only 882 warrants were issued.

“So each warrant may represent thousands of interceptions, or surveillance is happening without a warrant.”

The report also highlighted an increase in the number of National Key Points as an irrational security policy in action.

“Once a place has been declared a National Key Point, it must meet minimum levels of security and revealing information about these security measures is a crime. The minister of Police declares these sites in secret, and the government has refused to reveal a list of all the key points in South Africa.”

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