Mail & Guardian 'censored' - editor
Johannesburg - The Mail & Guardian newspaper was expected to hit the streets on Friday with a big "Censored" headline over its front page story.
According to a tweet on social networking site Twitter, its editor, Nic Dawes, said: "Just learned that the NPA Act has sections as bad as #secrecybill. Your M&G will look butchered tomorrow. Blame Mac Maharaj."
Dawes also posted a link to a picture of the weekly's front page for Friday, saying in another tweet: "Sorry to give you a paper that looks like this. A glimpse of life under #secrecybill."
The front page features a picture of Maharaj, spokesperson for President Jacob Zuma, alongside the words in bold: "Censored. We cannot bring you this story in full due to a threat of criminal prosecution."
Another picture shows a story on its inside page, headlined, "A buried trail of lies".
Big black blocks are printed over about three quarters of the page, where the story would have been published.
Dawes said the weekly had "wanted to publish information from an NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] Section 28 interview with Mac Maharaj. Apparently it's illegal to do that...
"Just like the #secrecybill the NPA Act punishes disclosure of S28 records with up to 15 years, even if you aim to reveal serious wrongdoing," tweeted Dawes.
The Act makes it an offence to disclose evidence gathered in camera by a section 28 inquiry - providing for a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail, reported the Mail & Guardian Online on Thursday evening.
"After sending questions to Maharaj on Wednesday this week, the M&G received a letter on Thursday from Maharaj's lawyers warning of a potential criminal prosecution if we published the story," Dawes said in a statement posted on the website.
"We believe that we have every right to publish the information which raises serious questions about the conduct of the man who speaks on behalf of the president.
"However, faced with threats of both civil and criminal action, we have been advised by our lawyers to withhold publication pending an application to the national director of public prosecutions for permission to disclose the relevant material.
"We hope that the director, Menzi Simelane, will demonstrate the government's professed commitment to transparency," said Dawes.