SSA denies info bill censorship claims

2011-11-21 14:03

Johannesburg - Claims that the protection of state information bill will lead to censorship and information blackouts are sensationalist, the State Security Agency (SSA) said on Monday.

"It is not correct that there will be mass classification of information as the application of the bill is narrowed drastically to national security departments," SSA spokesperson Brian Dube said.

"To argue that life under the protection of state information bill will be characterised by censorship and information blackouts is sensationalising of the highest order."

He was reacting after the National Press Club (NPC) asked people opposed to the bill wear black, a black ribbon or black armband on Tuesday, when it is expected to be tabled in the National Assembly.

'Scare tactics'

The SSA said certain pronouncements by NPC chairperson Yusuf Abramjee were "a deliberate attempt to mislead the public as regards the objectives of this bill".

"The truth of the matter is that the bill provides numerous avenues for access to information, including classified information," said Dube.

"In some respects, the process to access information has been made even faster than is the current process found in the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

Using "scare tactics", "sensationalism" and "biased information" would not empower the South African public on matters as important as this legislation, the SSA said.

The NPC has named its campaign "Black Tuesday", based on what became known as "Black Wednesday" - October 19 1977 when the apartheid government banned The World, the Sunday World and a Christian publication Pro Veritas, as well almost 20 people and organisations associated with the black consciousness movement.

The ANC'S parliamentary caucus has dismissed the "Black Tuesday" protest as a "distortion of facts".

"The only result this unfortunate comparison and the planned campaign, in which people are urged to dress in black will achieve is to dilute the real history of the Black Wednesday and insult the victims of apartheid's barbaric laws," ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said on Monday.

More than a year of deliberations have failed to ease fears among the media that it will lead to excessive state secrecy and curtail media freedom.

On Friday, the ad hoc committee on the bill formally adopted a report rejecting all 123 amendments proposed by the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Public interest

If the bill is passed, the media will not be able to claim it acted in the public interest if it violates or is party to the violation of a law, or publishes classified information to substantiate a report on, for example, malpractice or corruption in government.

The ANC's majority is expected to pass the bill comfortably on Tuesday, though all opposition parties plan to vote against it.

The bill then has to move through the National Council of Provinces before it can be signed into law.

If passed in its current form, it is likely to land up in the Constitutional Court.

ANC ally the Congress of SA Trade Unions, media groups and civil rights organisations have all threatened to take it on review, notably because of the absence of a public interest defence.

The Right2Know Campaign was organising six pickets around the country, including one at Parliament, to protest against the bill.

Motshekga said the government had no intention of banning, torturing or murdering journalists and that the rejection of a public interest defence was in line with international best practice on security in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

On Black Wednesday, editors Percy Qoboza and Aggrey Klaaste were taken to solitary confinement where they spent five months.

According to The Sowetan archive, journalists such as Mathatha Tsedu, Joe Tlholoe, who is now the Press Ombudsman, and Don Mattera were detained and after their jail stay were banned for five years.

Organisations banned included the Beyers Naude's Christian Institute and the Union of Black Journalists.

"Black Wednesday" followed the death in police detention of black consciousness activist Steve Biko, as well as a campaign to resist Bophutatswana becoming a "homeland" independent of South Africa.

- Are you going to wear black? Send us your stories and photos

  • Piet - 2011-11-21 14:09

    You get what you vote for!!!

      Ann - 2011-11-21 14:21

      I believe it's best to err on the side of caution. Remember we are dealing with a number of people who have been involved in massive corruption and basically they speak with "forked tongues". They will do anything they can to ensure that we do not know the truth!

      Servaas - 2011-11-21 14:56

      State Security Agency: Anything the ANC has there paws in needs to be questioned. If the bill existed then Malema's stupidity and Zuma's 100 wives and heaven alone knows how many kids would never have been plastered across the news and papers. F I hope the entire lot of them dies.

      Larry - 2011-11-21 15:21

      True and at the next election campaign they will try to nail the opposition for diclosing matters that the voter needs to know.

  • Shirley - 2011-11-21 14:13

    Mugabe said that whites would be ok in Zim. Hitler denied the death camps existed. Gaddaffi denied crimes of humanity. Clinton denied having an affair. Nixon denied the "watergate" tapes existed-look how well that turned out!!!! Please-this is C.E.N.S.O.R.S.H.I.P. no matter whick coloeur you paint it!!!!!!

  • Shirley - 2011-11-21 14:14

    Sorry that should be colour.

  • rutger.boshoff - 2011-11-21 14:17

    Could the media please step by step explain why the protection of information bill is so terrible? The ANC quite clearly does not get it?… I truly believe that the ANC and it’s members don’t even grasp what corruption is in practice. It is the responsibility of the leaders in the media to make it clear to EVERYBODY, why this is the worst thing that could happen to this country, draw pictures if you have to, but please make it clear to every corner of South Africa’s society.

      Shirley - 2011-11-21 14:24

      The problem is even eith pictures the size of table mountain they wouldnt get it! They believe its their right to get rich off the poor bamboozle the ignorant and think the minority will just go with the flow!

  • Joanne - 2011-11-21 14:26

    "the application of the bill is narrowed drastically to national security departments," SSA spokesperson Brian Dube said.' Would this include arms deals, police headquarters, closing down of special investigation units, NIA problems, issues to do with the armed forces etc? If so, then it is a dangerous bill for all citizens of SA. If not, then what exactly will they mean by national security?

  • Multi - 2011-11-21 14:28

    We are not at war nor are we even capable of going to war (since we can't even run our own country). Why do we need a secrecy clause? Given the number of incidents of corruption and suspected corruption within the ANC government the only logical conclusion is that they want to cover up something. A public interest clause is required to blow the whistle on corruption and allowing so many government departments to make anything a state secret is irresponsible. The only reason to have a secrecy bill is to protect the nation from attack or exploitation from outside powers or terrorists. All it will do in its current form is allow exploitation from within its own government.

  • Brainbow - 2011-11-21 14:33

    What an aboslute load of hogwash. Don't they get it? Everything that we have fought for to liberate the people of our country has to do with the freedom of information. It is the very existence of the freedom of information that assisted in the liberation of our people.

  • Alva - 2011-11-21 14:46

    The black Tuesday reaction to the info bill should not surprise anyone. It shows that the SA public no longer trust the ANC government. With the massive amounts of money stolen from the tax payers coffers and now the secrecy bill, the hand picked appointment of Mogoeng to the concourt to slide the info bill through should it be challenged. Seriously, how stupid does the Zuma government think we are?

  • Herman - 2011-11-21 14:48

    If any person can believe this BS, he or she must be totally brain dead.

  • ludlowdj - 2011-11-21 14:50

    Unfortunately nothing the SSA says can be trusted or accepted on face value. The citizens of this country have stood by and watched as for 18 years the leading party has systematically raped and pillages the state coffers and income tax of the people of this country. People like Cwele, Malema, Zuma and Maharaj have proven to us beyond any doubt that the government is at worst guilty of treason against the people of this country and at best nothing more than common criminals and fraudsters. No bill will be accepted by the people of this country even if enacted by government

  • Gerhardus - 2011-11-21 14:51

    You have been moving towards the wrong side for years. you are going to pass this bill weather the public have a say or not. Just to hide your immoral and corrupt behaviour. You have peaked when mandela was there, but since then its been a downward spiral. Life is a circle and you that trusted and voted for this ppl will suffer the most.

  • Sidima - 2011-11-21 14:59

    "Motshekga said the government had no intention of banning, torturing or murdering journalists and that the rejection of a public interest defence was in line with international best practice on security in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom." Who's a sensationalist now Mr Chief Whip??

  • foxiloxi - 2011-11-21 15:16

    NONSENSE - The bill is to hide the MASSIVE levels of Corruption in this country and to protect ANC Cadres, NOTHING ELSE!!! The state will easily be able to hide just how incompetent and corrupt they are with this bill!! Sweep all corruption under the carpet!

  • Paas - 2011-11-21 15:19

    Last week it was FOREIGN AGENTS, today its SCARE TACTICS, what will it be tomorrow?

  • Jerhone - 2011-11-21 15:20

    and what the hell do they need a security bill for? half of the African continent already crossed our borders and live here, so there is no need for security or defence, it's two departments that need to be closed down anyway, we could use their budgets for policing and justice

  • Paas - 2011-11-21 15:20

    Well done to the Sunday Times for exposing "Honest Mac" two days before the Act kicked in and the story and Macs millions would be buried forever.

  • rory.short1 - 2011-11-21 15:29

    If the bill is as innocuous as the government claims how come such a broad spectrum of civil society has problems with it?

  • Lee - 2011-11-21 15:38

    I think all must wear black, what have we got to lose if we do?

  • Ben - 2011-11-21 15:38

    Everything ¦¦¦ ¦¦¦¦¦ is¦¦¦¦¦ ¦¦¦¦ fine ¦¦¦¦ ¦¦¦ ¦¦¦¦¦¦ love ¦¦¦¦¦ ¦ your ¦ ¦¦¦¦ government

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