Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Protection of Information Bill debated

Lusanda Bill
21 July 2010

The Protection of Information Bill has been a bill that has been debated numerous times.

What the Bill seeks is to “provide for the protection of certain information from destruction, loss or unlawful disclosure, to regulate the manner in which information may be protected, to repeal the Protection of Information Act, 1982, and to provide for matters connected therewith”.

The Ad Hoc Committee on Protection of Information Legislation (National Assembly) invited interested individuals and organisations to submit written submissions on the Protection of Information Bill.

Today in Parliament public hearings for those selected for oral presentation were being heard.

The South African Media and Gender Institute (SAMG) represented by Chris Mitchell presented their submission to the house.

In their presentation they put forward the question ‘who will protect me better the media or the state?’ SAMG believes that there should be a balance between access, protection and packaging of information.

Chris mentioned that the media can be a monster that clamps down on ordinary citizens, because if you have a problem you cannot run to the media to protect you, the state is the only protection the ordinary citizens have.

SAMG stated during their presentation that the media’s priority is their bank balance instead of the people. Overall SAMG believed that the Bill protected the ordinary citizen and empowers the state to have control of the type of stories that are published.

On the other hand Melissa Moore from the Freedom of Expression Institute stated in her presentation that they are in full support of freedom of expression, and stated that the Bill would be very harmful to journalists and media as a whole.

Her argument was that journalists role is to be watchdogs and the Bill will make sure that the stories that are published will always be on the spotlight and that journalists will be subjected to complex legal battles.

She also stated that the Bill will undermine what journalism is all about and that is to speak the truth and inform the people.

Overall the Bill will restrict the media from reporting news that the public needs to hear because the stories will need to go through different channels before it can be published.

This Bill will undermine the Freedom of Expression Act and undermine what journalism is all about, meaning that the media will not be able to report freely because the stories will have to go under review before being published.

Public hearings will continue tomorrow in Parliament.


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