Secrecy threat

2008-06-13 00:00

National interest is a much-disputed concept. The Protection of Information Bill currently under parliamentary scrutiny mentions it 20 times and defines it in sweeping terms. These include an astonishing clause about “all those things of benefit to the Republic”.

The struggle against apartheid comprised many parts. One was the determination to establish a modern democracy based on openness and transparency serving a well-informed citizenry. Progressive legislation about archives and promotion of access to information seemed to have provided a basis for this.

But now the intelligence community has come up with a bill of draconian potential that sets the country back years by giving the Cabinet power to create a blanket of silence. Given a growing number of skeletons in the governmentís cupboard, this might be to its benefit. But the real national interest can only be served by maximum transparency — even where this involves an element of risk to supposed security.

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