Bishops reject info bill

2010-08-31 16:53

Johannesburg - The SA Catholic Bishops Conference on Tuesday urged government to withdraw the protection of information bill and the proposal for a media appeals tribunal.

"We certainly do not want government to take us back to the oppressive practices of yesteryear, against which our common struggle was launched, said Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, spokesperson for the SACBC in a statement.

"We accept that some degree of restriction of information is both legitimate and necessary.

"However we have grave misgivings about the way it will be done, particularly since it risks fostering or even entrenching a culture of non-accountability and non-transparency among state officials at all levels."

Napier further called on the government to recognise that there already is an "efficient" media ombudsman in SA.

There was merit in proposals to strengthen this body's role in helping the media to regulate itself, he said.

He further expressed concern about the "wisdom and Constitutionality" of the information bill and shared the view expressed by a large section of civil society that it will threaten "some of our most fundamental rights".

"Furthermore, we believe that the bill violates the spirit of openness and accountability that is so necessary to underpin the Constitution's provisions on good governance, essential for a healthy democracy."

The bill and the ANC's proposed media appeals tribunal sparked an outcry among civil society, local and international media watchdogs and opposition party's.

The legislation and the proposal were largely viewed as ways to muzzle the South African press.