Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Info bill open to abuse - press club

Info bill open to abuse - press club
2012-02-14 14:16

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Pretoria - Had it not been for the media and whistle-blowers, many instances of corruption would not have been exposed, the National Press Club (NPC) said on Tuesday.

The protection of state information bill in its present form would lead to wide classification of information, NPC chairperson Yusuf Abramjee told a public hearing on the draft legislation in Mamelodi, outside Pretoria.

"The bill in its current form is clearly open to abuse. It provides for wide-ranging powers, relating to the classification [of information]," said Abramjee.

"Officials, including junior civil servants and members of security services, are authorised to classify documents with the head of departments."

Abramjee said this was in conflict with another clause in the bill which stipulated that classification had to be done on a senior level. Whistle-blowers were going to be scared "to lift the lid on corruption", fearing long jail terms.

Public interest clause

He appealed to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to consider including a public interest clause in line with the dictates of the Constitution.

"We cannot sit back and allow unconstitutional laws to be passed. Editors and journalists are prepared to go to jail defending our freedom," said Abramjee.

Another contributor, Amos Mkhontho, said that as a member of the ANC's MK Veterans he believed the bill, if passed, would take South Africa backwards.

"Do you still remember those days we used to read newspapers hiding under carpets? We do not want those days to come again. Look at countries like Zimbabwe who have such laws. Their people have fled to our country."

Most of those participating in the hearing took the opportunity to voice problems with service delivery around Mamelodi.

"Our identity documents show that we have voted continually. Our lives are not evident of people enjoying democracy," said one woman to the applause of the floor.

Residents gradually filled and eventually packed the church hall where the hearings took place.

Two public hearings on the so-called secrecy bill are scheduled in Gauteng. The second takes place in Sharpeville, near Vereeniging.

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


Read more on: npc | yusuf abramjee | pretoria | legislation | media | info bill |


A black day for South Africa – National Press Club
22 November 2011

The National Press Club has thanked South Africans for supporting 'Black Tuesday'.

"We asked to stand up and you responded," said Yusuf Abramjee, chairperson of the club.

Abramjee said the Protection of Information Bill "was accepted by Parliament, but rejected by South Africa.

"If the need arises, we will declare a Black Monday, Black Tuesday, Black Wednesday, Black Thursday, Black Friday, Black Saturday and a Black Sunday."

He said it was a black day for South Africa and the press club is saddened by what happened in Parliament today.

"It is a sad day for our democracy. Today was a black day for free speech, a black day for freedom of expression and a black day for media freedom."

Abramjee, who protested with other editors and journalists outside parliament, said it is unfortunate that the MP’s closed their eyes to what the public wanted.

He said the press club would continue to fight for media freedom in South Africa.

Abramjee said the press club supports SANEF and the Right2Know campaign. "We will engage with them and other bodies to decide on the way forward. With one step closer to becoming law, we support the move to take it to the Constitutional Court," he said.

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