Activists: Withdraw info bill
Cape Town - Freedom of expression activists the Right2Know Campaign on Thursday called on Parliament to withdraw the protection of information bill and submit it to a second round of public consultation.
"Parliamentarians can either continue to waste their time and the public's money to grapple with the disastrous bill, or they can read the writing on the wall: the secrecy (sic) bill must be withdrawn and resubmitted to a process of public consultation," it said.
The group was of the view that deputy speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo contravened the rules of the legislature when she extended the lifespan of the ad hoc committee drafting the bill at the end of January.
Opposition parties have formally challenged the decision and have refused to continue work on the bill, which would give state agencies wide powers to classify information.
They say that only the National Assembly has the power to extend the lifespan of the committee.
The ANC made two major concessions after the bill provoked a public outcry last year.
It agreed to remove the nebulous concept of national interest as cause for classification, as well as provisions allowing for the classification of commercial information.
But concerns remain about the number of State organs that would be given the right to file information as secret.
Idasa said in a recent submission that the count came to 1 001 and included entities like the Johannesburg Zoo.
The Right2Know Campaign said the bill, widely seen as an attempt to curb media freedom and criticism of government, needed a "line-by-line redraft".
"It is clearer than ever [that] the bill's problems are too big to be polished out," it said.