Information bill debate resumes

2011-05-24 14:24

Cape Town - The ANC said on Tuesday that it could not allow debate on the protection of information bill to continue forever, and would put contentious clauses to the vote if it failed to find agreement from the opposition.

"If there is no consensus we will vote on the matter and move on," warned the chairperson of the ad hoc committee drafting the bill, Cecil Burgess, as MPs resumed work after the municipal election recess.

"There is no way we are going to have 100% consensus on everything."

ANC MPs are in a position to easily outvote their opposition colleagues on a range of issues in the draft law - which has been dubbed the secrecy bill by rights campaigners - that remain the subject of intense debate.

These include whether all state organs would have the right to classify information and whether the bill contains a special defence to allow journalists, who face prosecution and lengthy prison terms for publishing state secrets, to argue that they did so in the public interest.

Public interest defence

On the last point, Burgess said the time had come for the opposition to accept that it would not persuade the ANC to include a so-called public interest defence as its research had clearly shown that this was not common practice around the world.

"The ANC is digging its heels in on the basis that we cannot find support for that in international best practice," he told MPs.

Burgess added that the law already protected whistle-blowers who made public classified information to expose crime.

The ANC had held to the position that journalists did not need the same protection because those who had worrisome information should approach the police, not the media.

The Inkatha Freedom Party's Mario Oriani-Ambrosini countered that the public interest defence was far more widespread around the world than the ANC would allow. He and other opposition MPs called for further debate on those and other issues, and argued that Burgess did not understand normal parliamentary process for finalising legislation.
Steve Swart, from the African Christian Democratic Party, said it was not acceptable to vote on individual clauses before considering the overall implication of proposed amendments for a bill as a whole.

The DA's Dene Smuts agreed, saying: "Voting comes right at the end. First we seek wisdom and talk to each other."

National outcry

The call exasperated ANC MP Nkosinathi Fihla.

"Are we going to be discussing this for the whole year," he asked.

The discussions were to continue after lunch.

Deadlines for finalising the bill have come and gone since last year, when the wide powers the bill seeks to give the state to classify information sparked a national outcry.

It was condemned by academics, activists, journalists and former Cabinet ministers as an attempt to muzzle the media and curtail criticism of the government.

In response, the government agreed to remove provisions allowing for information to be classified in the "national interest" or for commercial information to be kept secret.

Critics believe the bill remains unconstitutional and if passed in its current form, it is likely to be challenged in court.

  • zulufox - 2011-05-24 14:29

    Yes. Let's vote on it... No prices for guessing which way the vote is gonna swing...

      Creeky - 2011-05-24 14:55

      This Bill, was placed in "ICE" until a week after the elections... The NEW leaders are being sworn in as we speak, and what "THEY" get up to, is NOT OF CONCERN TO THE South African PUBLIC!!!!!! The ANC will see to that, by passing this contentious Bill!!!! Expect similar actions re the Jhb - Pta Tolling .... will also be implemented @ 66cents per Kilometer. Like it or not!

      CraigColinRoyMcLeod - 2011-05-24 15:06

      A number of the points in this bill violate human rights, privacy rights and give a corrupt government some pretty draconian powers.

      Boerseun - 2011-05-24 15:19

      You can vote all you want, but Twitter is a powerfull thing.

      Felix - 2011-05-24 15:44

      RIP news24. I'm going to miss you guys, even you Zfox you old troll you. :'(

      umlaut - 2011-05-26 07:27

      creeky---AS you say it was placed on ice---for how long??? now they want to rush it after the elections. So they wasted time before the elections not attending to it and now 'it can not continue forever' they are playing a game with the future of SA.

  • World Traveler - 2011-05-24 14:44

    Now the anc is into "international best practice"! It is NOT international best practice to muzzle the press. The anc lie!

      paulf - 2011-05-24 14:51

      There goes our Democracy. Zuma has really messed this country up since being in Power.

  • Barry - 2011-05-24 14:44

    Just another propaganda machine

  • psydomx - 2011-05-24 14:48

    Freedom of information is never in the best interests of a fledgling DICTATORSHIP!

      paulf - 2011-05-24 15:33

      I can forsee big trouble coning to our wonderful country. This is the start of many more things to come. I honestly hope I am wrong.

  • Rob Gunning - 2011-05-24 14:55

    "The ANC had held to the position that journalists did not need the same protection because those who had worrisome information should approach the police, not the media." - What do you do when the problem is the police?

  • GT - 2011-05-24 14:55

    Well vote, then it can go to the constitutional court who can then send it into the dustbin of history forever. any ANC cupporter who thinks this is a good idea must ask themselves 2 things: 1. Why did previous generation die in order to get this freedom that you are giving up 2. Where are you go to turn or run to when you have information that your life depends on. It will be a sad day if anything remotely resembling this bill is past.

  • Benzo - 2011-05-24 14:57

    Corruption, cadre deployment, mismanagement of state funds and BEE are also not internationa best practice. Allowing this argument could open up some interesting debates on other legislation not unlike the toilet story and backbiting on the ANC.

  • cj - 2011-05-24 14:57

    Let them finish the bloody thing. The Concourt will decide whether it passes constitutional muster. Those judges will not take kindly to muzzling the press.

  • Kisha - 2011-05-24 14:59

    And the true result will probably be a state secret..........

  • umlaut - 2011-05-24 15:02

    They want this secrecy because they are up to no good and they want to hide corruption and simply classify it----, --- and this classification is done by who? Will Malema have the right to conceal the statistics on how many whites he kills, or Zuma to hide all information of the old arms deal???? Anything can be classified and it is taking away our freedom to know and that will be undemocratic and if forced through parliament it will lead to violence. Why the hell do they choose the route of confrontation and not do things in the good interest of South Africa.???

      Creeky - 2011-05-24 15:11

      The Arms Deal involved the Mandela's and will never be opened up again! will TARNISH HIS REPUTATION!

  • Grayman - 2011-05-24 15:03

    Is it any wonder that the ANC have been crying foul over press reports. At every turn they have been berating the behaviour of the press. It has been a subliminal tactic to sway the sentiment of the ANC cadres into hating the press. Now, not a week after the elections, they want to put individual items to the vote knowing that the vote will be emotional not logical.

      Dr Filemon - 2011-05-24 15:29

      That is probably why they got Fackyu to want to burn down the Herald in PE.

  • Sho Fukamachi - 2011-05-24 15:07

    Transparency for all. The moment government is allowed to keep secrets and the public in the dark, is the moment the South African public is screwed over. The truth always has a way of getting out.

  • JudithNkwe - 2011-05-24 15:18

    Looks like a lot of us working with NGOs are going to see the insides of prisons!

  • Boerseun - 2011-05-24 15:18

    The constitution should be called upon in this case, but heckin this RSA even that is a tootless law it seems.

  • jds - 2011-05-24 15:26

    And so the wheel turns...The ANC is slowly becoming the new NP of the current SA apartheid!!

  • Clinton - 2011-05-24 15:26

    Revisting apartheid regime years is slowely coming back and at the end of the day the losers is going to be all the law abiding SA Citizens. SARS wants to penalise me for returning my tax returns late, yet I would like to know from them what is happening to the money I pay towards bettering our country if every second minister and MP is being implimented in corruption. Why should I as a tax payer keep on blindly filling the greedy pockets of politicians when they cant tell me or trying to now suppress me from asking what is happening to that money? Protection of information bill should be calleby its real name "Protection Of Our Corrupt Friends Bill"

  • Kevin - 2011-05-24 15:35

    This is proof that the anc has a lot more to hide. What more proof do you need,to know you wasted your vote on thugs.Transparency is promised but that a lie.No corruption but thats a lie. And now for the ultimate kick in the teeth for freedom and human rights. If ever there was a reason to have a riot this is it.

  • Muzi - 2011-05-24 15:36

    I have not seen the bill. But as an ANC supporter, i TOTALLY disagree with it based on what I read in the media. In 17 years we never had any state secrets leaked by media. So why the bill now? What happened to the petition?

      Muzi - 2011-05-24 15:39

      I have not seen the bill. But as an ANC supporter, i TOTALLY disagree with it based on what I read in the media. In 17 years we never had any state secrets leaked by media. So why the bill now? What happened to the petition against it? E-TV is running solo adverts against it. These are small (BIG) things that makes us loose votes.

      Born To Fish - 2011-05-24 16:06

      And you voted for them...does not say a lot about your intellect...

      Huey Freeman - 2011-05-24 16:31

      Born To Fish, what does say a lot about one's intellect since you are sure voting does not say a lot?

      DW - 2011-05-24 17:20

      Muzi I am really saddened that supporters like you do not speak out to the ANC. They think all the opposition comes from the "whites" and DA supporters. Please get the news out to your fellow ANC supporters and explain to them the importance of freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Our country needs intelligent people like you who can see the reality of what this bill means. I will not make snide comments on your intellect (like others here) as you clearly have your own reasons for supporting ANC, whatever those may be. But you can speak out on things you are unhappy with

  • Andrew - 2011-05-24 15:39

    We have all seen how effective this type of legislation is in the information age.....government is wasting their time!!! Ask the ex-president of Tunisia and Egypt and the governments in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, AND the old Soth African apartheid Government etc..... We will always be heard!!! Our Government are wanting to install Draconian and Fascist laws!! We will use Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

      Muzi - 2011-05-24 15:42

      disagree with old Nats. they kept you guys in the dark!

      Andrew - 2011-05-24 16:05

      @Muzi...That's what I'm saying. I my opinion the ANC are looking more and more like something I've seen before in this country. It's called an oppressive social nationalism or Fascism.

      DW - 2011-05-24 17:23

      Muzi, despite the fact that the old Nats kept us in the dark, the rest of the world knew what was going on. It was at home that we were ignorant. Internet, Facebook, Twitter etc now prevents that kind of thing from happening as, if they know about it in the rest of the world, even if the local media is muzzled, we will still find out. The problem is that they will attempt to muzzle it before it even gets to the world so no-one will know their corruption. This bill must be stopped.

  • Greybeard - 2011-05-24 15:42

    Possibly the most dangerous piece of legislation ever proposed. Are your memories that short? Where the hell would we be now if many like myself had not put our lives on the line on a daily basis during the 80's to expose the regimes excesses to the world. Have you forgotten the debt you owe those who laid down their lives for exactly the freedom that this bill will deny. Please people, this is IMPORTANT! Muzzling the press will truly be the death knell for our shaky democracy

  • Greybeard - 2011-05-24 15:49

    I repeat, possibly the most dangerous piece of legislation ever proposed! Mobilize and fight this thing people if you value democracy at all.

      Andrew - 2011-05-24 16:06

      Greybrard, I agree!...and here I thought we were have a quiet news day. Next time I will be more thankful for small mercies!

  • The Question - 2011-05-24 15:52

    While it may not be a common practice around the world at present, the people have a right to dictate what should and should not be a common practice in their own country. We have the right to know if any shady dealings are happening, as the government works for the people. We elect them into office to act on our behalf and in our best interests and not for them to cover themselves if things go wrong. Haven’t we learnt anything from Nixon’s Watergate scandal? Open the debate to a public referendum so that we can vote on the matter. Just because one political party has a ruling majority doesn’t mean that they can just overrule the concerns shared by the smaller parties and the citizens all the parties represent.

      DW - 2011-05-24 17:25

      Doesnt help to open the debate to public referendum. The majority of people have no idea what it is about and why it is dangerous and will vote along party lines, giving the ANC the majority that they want.

      The Question - 2011-05-24 17:52

      I know... that's the sad part. People don't always cast an informed vote... If we do manage to force the issue into a public referendum, not only will this allow for more information to be made available to the general public on its potential impact, but also bring across the point that this is a serious matter people need to think about and not just another moan by a small group on a random issue.

  • Fred - 2011-05-24 15:52

    Naturally the ANC wants to pass this bill quickly so the nasty media people will stop telling the people how corrupt the ANC and their cronies are. Then they can get down to some really serious stealing !!! While the pigs have their snouts stuck in the gravy-train trough, there is nothing they will not do to stop themselves being exposed, not that they get punished for it anyway. We need a serious clean-up in this country.

  • Greybeard - 2011-05-24 16:01

    Could somebody please tell me what was offensive about my submission? I have been removed TWICE for saying that this is the most dangerous piece of legislation imaginable! Have the guts to reply!!!

  • Freelance Writer - 2011-05-24 16:02

    The ANS will push it through and the Con Court will throw it out. The circle of stupidity will continue.

  • Born To Fish - 2011-05-24 16:04

    Yeah F the people, we will do what we want! We have to protect the cadres at all cost!

  • Greybeard - 2011-05-24 16:05

    Mobilize against this bill people, freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of democracy, we cannot afford to lose that freedom.

      The Question - 2011-05-24 16:11

      I fully agree with you @Greybeard

      Andrew - 2011-05-24 16:30

      Greybeard, you have my support on this matter. I remember, back in the mid80's, when the Weekly M&G had a blank front page as a protest against the banning of reporting news and information of what was happening in the townships and reporting on those in detention etc.. Now the same people that were fighting in the townships and in detention are continually harassing and taking legal action against the M&G. The question has to be asked: Do we want history to repeat itself?

  • Twoplusthree - 2011-05-24 16:09

    Yep, let's vote on it. But, ps: use the democratic tools i.e. referendum. oops, forgot that the anc thinks the public is too stupid to decide for themselves.

  • tkotze - 2011-05-24 16:15

    Try and vote it in ANC, let it go to court and be annulled by the constitutional court as the Hawks was, and then go back to the drawing board and start again. You may have the cabinet/parliament, but you don't have the right to change the constitution anymore. Live with the fact that this country is democratic and power bestowed on ANC for running it was only lent to them by the people of SA, not given and that you will be scrutinised when in power, and the solution is not to hide it but rather fix it.

  • Andrew - 2011-05-24 16:34

    This issue was not mentioned by the ANC during the last national elections. I say: IT'S TIME FOR A REFERENDUM!!

  • The Question - 2011-05-24 17:00

    Since the proposed bill is still invoking so much opposition by both other parties and the general public, doesn't this tell the ANC that it's not something that they can simply vote on (by including some 'contentious clauses') and then move on from without really addressing the issue? It's like saying that yes you can disagree with me but since I'm in charge, my say out-votes yours...

  • - 2011-05-24 17:06

    Bet you they dont let us the public, who after all those who are going to be most affected by the Bill, vote on it! They 'll get those that have the most wish to keep their corrupt dealings hidden, the ANC dominated govt. vote on it.

  • GV - 2011-05-24 17:13

    And they would like to hide what exactly?

  • DW - 2011-05-24 17:14

    Just get on with it so that it can be challenged in the Constitutional Court and totally rejected thereafter. Stop wasting everyone's time

  • capetonian - 2011-05-24 17:34

    Fortuneately we have a Constitutional Court here - so I'm sure that's where it will end up if the ANC try to force thru contentious legislation involving the freedom of the press!

  • AH - 2011-05-24 18:01

    Let me guess, Faku, Malema and Zuma's hand will be up first come voting time! Anybody willing to bet against that?

  • Jason - 2011-05-25 09:18

    ANC said in the build up to the elections its biggest threat was the media... nothing more has to be said on this.

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