DA: Info bill a threat to media sources

2011-08-24 19:13
Cape Town - Opposition parties accused the ANC on Wednesday of seeking to use clause 18 of the draft protection of information bill to force journalists to betray sources, who hand them classified information, to the authorities.

The clause obliges anybody who comes into possession of a classified document to hand it to the police or the intelligence services to avoid prosecution.

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier asked the committee drafting the bill: "Could it be explained to me what the purpose is of handing the document to the police? Is the danger not that the police could try to determine who had leaked that document to the journalist?"

Luwellyn Landers, who was leading the ANC's arguments on the ad hoc committee drafting the bill, responded: "There is nothing wrong in that."


He added: "Mr Maynier incidentally reveals his whole approach to the law. He finds leaking to be a virtue."

Maynier said his position was "a democratic one" and that the ANC's was not. He added that it was unthinkable that journalists who were handed classified information would rush to a police station to get rid of it.

"It will never happen in a million years, ever. This is madness."

The issue had cropped up repeatedly in recent deliberations on the bill. The ruling party had insisted the clause would stay and rejected opposition proposals for exemptions from prosecution for possession of state secrets.

According to the latest draft, the only exception is where possession is authorised by another law.

The DA had argued the new law should explicitly rule out prosecution where the information was wrongfully classified or concealed wrongdoing.

Request to declassify

The issue, tied up with that of protection for whistleblowers, which activists and academics said remained lacking in the bill and could determine whether it passed constitutional muster.

Dennis Dlomo, the special adviser to State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, said on the sidelines of deliberations that since the latest draft did not criminalise possession per se, provided the police were alerted, the recipient could then, without fear, approach the minister with a request to declassify it.

In this regard, the clause no longer risked creating what constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos called "an Orwellian situation", where one could not ask authorities to declassify a document, because admitting that one had insight into it could land one in jail.

But African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart said in the absence of a public interest defence to protect journalists and whistleblowers, going to court would in reality be "the only route" for somebody who uncovered classified information that concealed corruption.
Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  acdp  |  david maynier  |  luwellyn landers  |  info bill  |  politics  |  media  |  legislation

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.