Secrecy Bill: concerns still stands, anomalies arise

Secrecy Bill: concerns still stands, anomalies arise

Date: March 6, 2012
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It is almost a month since public hearings on Protection of Information Bill started. However, news reportage on the matter indicates that the “masses” are still concerned with the  nature of the bill and are calling for an addition of “public interest clause”.

Media activists and experts argue that if signed in its current state form, the bill is subject to abuse by government authorities. Technocrats say the bill if signed into a law will give power to government authorities to decide what classified information is a thing that will pose a challenge on information seekers.

Experts are further worried that litigation to the classification of information would be financially damaging for the media and society at large.

Mail & Guardian Editor Nic Dawes says: “For some people it may be relatively affordable, for others not at all. But for all of us it would place a huge financial constraint on aspects of our work. We can run up costs that easily are the difference between profit and loss for a company like ours.” He added that due to prolonged litigation processes, the public will be deprived timely information.

In addition, anomalies aimed at shutting down people wanting to speak against the bill crowded this month-long process which started on 31 January and is expected to end on 1 March in Northern Cape.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng Provincial Spokesperson Refiloe Nt’sekhe, told the media that “people who reiterated pressing national concerns, such as the inclusion of a public interest defence, were promptly called to order and silenced by the chair.

“It is unthinkable that the mere mention of a ‘public interest clause’, the issue at the very centre of public debate, is shut down in a public hearing,” lamented Nt’sekhe after Gauteng hearings which have been described as “farcical”.


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