Editors in last-ditch appeal to MPs

2011-11-22 12:49

Johannesburg - A group of editors and the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) made an 11th hour plea to ANC MPs to reject the protection of state information bill when it comes up for the vote in the National Assembly at 14:00 on Tuesday.

In a statement, run on the front pages of some publications like The Times and Beeld, the editors said: "Mark this day. Depending on the actions of the 400 MPs in the National Assembly at 2pm, it will end as a day of triumph or of shame for our adolescent democracy.

"Every MP who presses the green button to vote 'yes' for the protection of state information bill will at that moment take personal responsibility for the first piece of legislation since the end of apartheid that dismantles an aspect of our democracy - a betrayal that will haunt them forever."

The editors said the bill came amid escalating attacks by the ANC on reporters, newspapers and the freedom of the press.

Free media

"The spreading culture of self-enrichment, either corrupt or merely inappropriate, makes scrutiny by a free media which is fuelled by whistleblowers who have the public interest at heart more essential than ever since 1994.

"If members of the ANC cannot muster the courage to defy their party's leaders and repudiate the bill, it will again - as under apartheid - be up to those willing to go to jail for a very long time to expose the abuse of state power."

The editors described the bill as "the wall behind which much evil is hidden" with anyone who leaked, published or possessed a secret facing a possible jail sentence of 20 years without the right to motivate their actions in mitigation.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe had acknowledged that the proposed "public interest defence" would have to be tested by a judge and almost every submission during Parliament's public hearings on the bill called for a last-resort escape clause, but still the ANC had refused.

The bill was presented and withdrawn by the then minister of intelligence Ronnie Kasrils in 2008.

Last year, President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet refocused the draft and sent it back to a "more pliable Parliament with instructions to ensure its adoption", the editors continued.

They acknowledged that the ANC had accepted over 120 amendments which greatly improved the draft - including a narrowing of the justification for sealing state information and enhanced provisions for oversight and appeal.

Public interest clause

"But without a public interest clause, this framework for secrecy remains a massive brake on the free flow of information to the people in whose name a tightly protected elite purports to govern."

Opposition parties said they would oppose the bill, but ANC members would be required by the rules of party discipline to be present for the vote and to support it.

"We, the editors of the aforementioned South African newspapers, appeal to ANC MPs who will vote today to put the future of your country ahead of your own future in the party and reject this appalling bill."

If not enough MPs did "the right thing", the editors urged that the Cabinet redraft the bill with a public interest defence clause as it went through its next step, the National Council of Provinces.

They also asked Zuma to exercise his right to submit the bill to the Constitutional Court for ratification before signing it into law.

"If none of these things happen, it will be up to civil society and the political opposition to ask that court to declare it the abomination it is."

The statement was signed by the Times, Business Day, The Herald, Sowetan, Daily Despatch, Die Burger, Cape Times, Beeld, The Star, The Mercury, Pretoria News, The Witness, Volksblad, Die Son and Daily Sun.

Accountability mechanisms

A plea from Sanef to MPs, which was published on the front page of The Star, said bill in its current form would choke the flow of vital information and restrict crucial accountability mechanisms.

Sanef lamented the absence of a public interest defence, and the "blanket secrecy" afforded intelligence structures, leaving little recourse when they abused their authority.

"The first step is to reject the bill by voting against it in the National Assembly today," Sanef said.

The Sun newspaper, which is usually associated with parochial issues and unusual mystical events, ran a truncated version of the editors' statement on page two.

Newcomer The New Age also appealed to MPs not to pass the bill.

"You don't have to vote along party lines (after all, your vote is secret). You should vote with your conscience. It is not too late for common sense to prevail."

- Are you protesting? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos

  • Larry - 2011-11-22 12:57

    The ANC will not listen to reason. Like a bunch of sheep, they will vote the way they are told, by their crooked masters.

      ArnoNico - 2011-11-22 13:22

      I agree but there is more than one herd.

      Narike - 2011-11-22 13:24

      They will not bite the hand that feeds them…

      Patrick - 2011-11-22 13:28

      First we started taking backward steps. Then we increased the pace to a jog. With this bill we have started sprinting. The incompetent want the mirror smashed.

      Willie - 2011-11-22 13:37

      ANC MP'S are spineless last time they voted for abortion against their will.We need someone to provide backbones for them.What can't of democracy is this

      Makatikamusona - 2011-11-22 13:48

      Malema's office slams secrecy bill

  • rbphiri - 2011-11-22 12:59

    If this Bill Is passed, it's the same thing as giving the government a thumbs up to go ahead with further corruption. Basically the government want to continue with their fraudulent activities without the threat of the media putting them in a bad light. The Bill is a licence to steal.

      Sibo - 2011-11-22 13:30

      If it passes then have just contridicted what they fought for...they will not get my vote when this bill passes

      Makatikamusona - 2011-11-22 13:37

      @RPhiri did you read the bill I suggest you do that one first

  • Atholl - 2011-11-22 13:05

    {{the proposed "public interest defence" would have to be tested by a judge}} This is a cunning way to change the Constitution by stealth, subversion and subordination. Not even a Judge has the right to suppress freedom of speech - because a judge swears an oath to protect the Bill of Rights - S 16 - freedom of speech - which protects the media. see the Bill of Rights in action at ==>>

  • Sapepa - 2011-11-22 13:05

    If this bill is passed i believe even the Auditor General will be corrupt

  • Herman - 2011-11-22 13:08

    If all media agencies just continuo to publish "secret" info of corrupt govt officials, what are they going to do??? Lock you up, close you down? If the info is out, it’s out! HAVE YOU BURNED AN ANC FLAG LATELEY?

  • Ameshnee - 2011-11-22 13:11

    Unbelievable!! We're moving backwards for crying out loud! Where is the logic?????

  • Pierre - 2011-11-22 13:12

    This afternoon will reflect true democracy in the view point of the ANC......."do what you are told if you like it/agree or not"..... you owe us seeing we pay you and implement a law that will protect your corruption and scandals from the public eye.

      Narike - 2011-11-22 13:25

      Yes, he who pays the piper calls the tune…

  • brionyl.french - 2011-11-22 13:13

    there go our basic rights, so much for what the ANC stood up for way back on the beginning...

  • Johann - 2011-11-22 13:18

    This bill is being bulldozed through not to just cover for what has been done ,but also for what the ANC still wants to do, more plunder!

  • TedHaller69 - 2011-11-22 13:24

    To the truely free people of this country - there is nothing we can do to stop this from being voted in. The fat thieving sheeple in parliament don't see the irony. They claim to have fought for freedom, but yet their masters have removed their right to think for themselves and to choose what is right. They will blindly follow in order to be able to plunder and pillage at will. Come 2 'o clock and we have moved back 25 years. I cannot believe that they cannot see that.

  • Gregory Jurgens - 2011-11-22 13:26

    This is ludicrous . To force something no one wants. Why Why Why. ANC is a insane money grabbing Mafia

  • David - 2011-11-22 13:31

    The ANC's blatant disregard to electorate's will (even ANC members and affiliates don't want the Bill) is a direct result of the voters unwillingness to vote out the ANC. Until the majority decide to not vote on autopilot and actually hold their government accountable, we will have to keep fighting those entrusted to protect us.

  • trevor.putterill - 2011-11-22 13:34

    What you mean there is nothing we can do! Didnt the Anc teach us how to close roads! Riot! Burn. !,,, Legal option. ?.before the constitution is changed lol

  • Lee - 2011-11-22 13:36

    Bloody right I am protesting.

  • Loren Roos - 2011-11-22 13:38

    For a country that has come so far, how can this happen. Sorry South Africa, how I feel for you.

  • davidnews24 - 2011-11-22 13:43

    what are they thinking ???

      johnkk - 2011-11-22 14:34

      POWER, MONEY, GREED.......

  • malcolm - 2011-11-22 13:45

    After this is all, and in the event of the ANC getting their way, we can expect many changes in the future. For example in 5 years time, when the money has run out, the blue light convoys will all have oxen pulling them, and the blue lights will have candles inside them. Imagine passing a blue light convoy on your mountain bicycle.

  • KatryntjieGP - 2011-11-22 13:52

    ¦¦¦¦ ¦¦ ¦ ¦¦¦¦ everything ¦¦¦ ¦¦¦ is¦¦¦¦¦¦¦ ¦¦¦¦ fine ¦¦¦¦ ¦¦¦ love, ¦¦¦¦¦¦¦ ¦¦¦ your ¦¦¦¦¦ ¦¦¦¦ government #BlackTuesday - please repost.

  • Marion - 2011-11-22 14:12

    Even though I'm wearing black today I fear that fighting this bill is like fa****g in a bubble bath...

  • Msholozi - 2011-11-22 14:44

    the bill will help that no controlled media can fabricate stories of our leaders

  • Brad - 2011-11-22 14:44

    Any idea when the voting results will be made public?

  • Michelle - 2011-11-22 15:22

    Have to agree with RPhiri !!!!

  • Lynn - 2011-11-22 16:09

    This government is shameful. It is indeed a sad day for democracy. I hope the people that voted for them have the sense to cast their votes elsewhere next time.

  • Sipho - 2011-11-22 16:34

    Who wouldn't sign a blank cheque to steal? They know what is left now is for them to put the amount they wish to steal. They are guaranteed of protection. The only protection left to the voting citizens of this country is to make sure that you all go out and educate the illiterate and ignorant masses out there exercise their power by voting out the rot (anc) in 2014. I've already started.

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