ANC won’t budge on Secrecy Bill

By Khanyisa Tabata
01 September 2011

ANC members of Parliament have told the committee discussing the new Protection of Information Bill that they will not under any circumstances permit journalists to write about leaked classified documents.

Journalists working on such a story will have to apply for the declassification of the information, or face up to ten years in prison.

The DA’s Dene Smuts argued strongly against this, saying journalists must be allowed to expose corruption.

In its reaction, the African Christian Democratic Party expressed disappointment at the ruling party’s decision not to include a public interest defence in the so-called Secrecy Bill.

ACDP spokesperson Steve Swarts says the omission leaves the Bill open to constitutional challenges.

“We argued that at the very least, a narrowly crafted public interest defence similar to the public interest override contained in the Promotion of Access to Information Act should have been included.

“We are thus deeply disappointed that not even such a narrowly crafted defence was acceptable to the ANC,” said Swarts.

The SA National Editors' Forum last night said it was deeply concerned by the committee's deliberations, saying that without a public-interest defence, the bill would be an anti-democratic and unconstitutional law.

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