Parts of info bill 'irrational' - Zuma

2013-09-12 15:10

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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday he had sent the secrecy bill, seen as a threat to whistleblowers and investigative journalists, back to lawmakers to rework "irrational" clauses.

"I am of the view that the bill as it stands does not pass the constitutional muster," he told journalists in Cape Town.

The information bill was passed in April by Parliament and sent to Zuma to be signed into law, despite an outcry from activists that it will muzzle the media and provide cover for government corruption.

The bill, which targets the classification and protection of sensitive material, has been referred to the National Assembly for reconsideration, Zuma said.

Two problematic sections in the legislation - known as the protection of state information bill - lacked "meaning and coherence" and were "irrational" and "unconstitutional", he said.

"I realised that there are sections that needed to be fixed," said Zuma.

The President found fault with sections dealing with the failure to report the possession of classified information, and on the improper classification of material.

Under the bill, espionage-related cases carry a punishment of up to 25 years in jail, and holding or disclosing classified material carries a maximum of five years' imprisonment.

The bill was first mooted in 2008.

The opposition, media and rights groups have fiercely opposed the bill, fearing it will be used to persecute whistleblowers and stifle press freedom in a country where the media regularly uncover government corruption and wasteful spending.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  legislation  |  info bill

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