‘Concessions in info bill insufficient’

2011-06-30 11:06

In spite of recent concessions made by the ANC on the Protection of Information Bill, the draft legislation will still not pass constitutional muster, a senior advocate specialising in media law said today.

In a legal opinion commissioned by civil rights organisation AfriForum, advocate Kobus van Rooyen SC says in general the bill is vague, complicated and difficult to interpret.

AfriForum presented the opinion to the National Assembly’s ad hoc committee dealing with the bill at Parliament today.

In his 25-page opinion, Van Rooyen concludes that the bill does not stand a reasonable chance of being held by the Constitutional Court as being in harmony with the Constitution.

“It is vague, irrational, overbroad, opens the path to inconsistency, opens a wide opportunity to classify material that could be politically embarrassing to the government of the day and even to classify that which is false and, ultimately, to withhold facts from the public which it is entitled to have access to.

“Ultimately, the astounding result of the [bill] would be that people could be found guilty by a court for disclosing classified information and sent to prison for many years based on a classification which was not in accordance with the basic values on which our Constitution is based – the rule of law, transparency and equal justice,” he says.

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