/ 23 July 2008

Newspaper to pay costs of NIA court action

Business Day newspaper has been ordered to pay the costs of a National Intelligence Agency (NIA) application to block publication of a sensitive document, Intelligence Services Minister Ronnie Kasrils said on Tuesday.

He said in a statement that the Johannesburg High Court had ordered Business Day not to publicise the document or any part of it.

It also ordered that no other person was entitled to possession of the document or to publicise its contents without the NIA’s authority and permission.

Welcoming the finding, Kasrils said that although it is important for the public to have access to state information and the right to media freedom, there are clear constitutional and legal requirements concerning classified state information.

”The intention of Business Day to publish classified information is highly unacceptable and unheard of in democracies anywhere in the world,” he said. ”The high court order clearly shows that there are standards of propriety that must be adhered to.

”The publication of classified information obtained in an unauthorised manner threatens legitimate intelligence operations and undermines national security.”

The editor of Business Day and the Weekender, Peter Bruce, said the NIA could have ”saved us all the bother” had it answered the newspaper’s enquiries last Thursday.

”It finally did so in court on Monday. We are satisfied with their answer and that the rights of a particular political party have not been abused, as we initially feared,” he said.

In court on Monday, Business Day agreed to return the document to the NIA. — Sapa