Info bill vote: 62 MPs stay away

2011-11-22 18:13
Cape Town - Freedom of speech activists and newspaper editors on Tuesday promised a campaign of “civil disobedience” against the protection of information bill.

Protests took place across the country, but on Tuesday afternoon 229 MPs voted in favour and 107 against the bill. There were two abstentions.

Sixty-two MPs weren't in the National Assembly when the bill was voted on.

Speaking outside Parliament on Tuesday, human rights activist Fatima Hassan said that South Africans will embark on a campaign of civil disobedience.

Civil society leaders and editors all agreed that they will take the fight against the bill to the Constitutional Court.

Mondli Makhanya, editor-in-chief of Avusa Media and chairperson of the SA National Editors’ Forum, said that, if necessary, “we will go to jail”.

Hundreds of people turned up at the protest outside Parliament, including Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes, City Press editor Ferial Haffajee, Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley and cartoonist Zapiro.

Moments before the vote, Makhanya said: “Their [government officials] consciences back then wouldn't have let them push this bill through.”

Suppress knowledge

HIV/Aids activist Zachie Achmat later told protesters that the purpose of the bill is to suppress knowledge of information such as the R2 trillion that will be spent on nuclear programmes instead of giving children a decent education.

National Press Club chairperson Yusuf Abramjee promised the vote would mean not only a Black Tuesday but a “Black Monday, Black Tuesday, Black Wednesday, Black Thursday, Black Friday, Black Saturday and Black Sunday”.

After the vote, Dawes tweeted that it “hurt” to walk out of Parliament in protest at the bill.

“That hurt. The vote was expected, but standing up to walk out was nauseating. The right message to send, but a grim moment,” he said.

Even Nando’s weighed in on the discussion around the bill, with an ad showing a blacked out message and writing beneath it: “Dear journalists, if you ever run out of things to write about, you can always tell people about our flame-grilled, 24-hour marinated Peri-Peri chicken.”

The bill will now go before the National Council of Provinces and, if approved, it will be signed by President Jacob Zuma. It will then appear in the government gazette.

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