'Sober debate' on info bill needed

2010-10-27 08:28

Durban - Debating the controversial protection of information bill “hysterically” would not help people who had concerns about it, ANC veteran Pallo Jordan said on Tuesday.

“We need to debate it honestly and not hysterically. Debating it hysterically only adds heat,” he said in Durban during a debate on media diversity.

The contentious bill has been met with firm opposition mainly from the media practitioners who argue it will make it impossible for journalists to operate.

Jordan said there was a need for a “sober debate” on the bill, saying that secrecy bills had a purpose.

Protect secrets

“There is no country that has no secrets. The purpose of the bill is to protect secrets of this country. All we have to do is to take part in the debate.”

Jordan was responding to a comment made by former KwaZulu-Natal government spin doctor and former journalist Bheki Ncube.

“The bill is not going to improve service delivery. I don’t know why the ANC is pushing for it. Some of the things that the ANC does make me think that this is not the ANC I grew up in,” said Ncube.

He said the ANC tended to send Jordan to pacify the intellectuals whenever the party introduced controversial things.

Jordan reacted angrily to Ncube’s comment, saying that he had not been sent by the ANC to attend the debate.

“I have noticed that former journalists like to make assumptions. The ANC did not send me here to participate. I have also not been sent by government because I am no longer in government.”

The New Age

Jordan said he was surprised at how media organisations had reacted to the introduction of The New Age, a new newspaper which would be openly pro-government.

“There has been a negative response from other titles and commentators. It is either they don’t like the competition or they don’t want a paper which will approach stories differently,” he said.

It was a very odd response, he said.

The New Age would be funded by the Gupta Group, which has close links to the ruling ANC.

Its launch was postponed for the third time last week after its senior editorial staff including its editor, Vuyo Mvoko, resigned.