The DA has launched a political assault on the “draconian” Protection of Information Bill currently before Parliament, which will include mobilising opposition parties and ANC parliamentarians against the Bill, and possible legal action in the Constitutional Court.
On Thursday DA leader Helen Zille announced at a press conference a “battle plan” to fight what it believes is an overt attempt to undermine democracy.
The Bill, which will legislate how the government manages and classifies its information, has been criticised for being unconstitutional, eroding the freedom of the press and the powers of public officials such as parliamentarians to hold the government to account.
The DA outlined several approaches it would take in order to stop the Bill’s passage into law. These include lobbying President Jacob Zuma to get the Bill reconsidered, lobbying ANC members in Parliament, and meeting with the Speaker of Parliament Max Sisulu to discuss the implications the Bill would have for the body and its ability to hold the executive accountable.
The party said it would invoke Section 80 of the Constitution, which grants the National Assembly the right to take a law, if deemed unconstitutional, to the Constitutional Court should at least one third of the assembly back this motion.
Should the Bill still be passed into law, the DA said it would mobilise public support for a collective challenge against the Bill, again with the Constitutional Court.
The DA’s conference came on the back of a Cabinet briefing where it was announced that the government will be meeting with South African National Editors’ Forum to discuss its position on matters relating to media freedom, including the POI Bill and the ANC’s proposal of a media appeals tribunal.
“There is no threat to media freedom,” said government spokesperson Themba Maseko.
“Government wants to meet with editors and discuss its position on things like why the Protection of Information Bill has been tabled in Parliament.”
Zille also railed against the proposed media appeals tribunal under discussion within the ANC, which the ruling party hopes to introduce to Parliament as a body with the power to overrule decisions by the press ombudsman.
DA national spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko accused the ANC of seeking to institute the tribunal because the media “have occasion to report badly about the ANC”.
“This isn’t about how the press reports about the markets or about sport, or about any other issue except for the governing party,” she said.
“Everything relates to how the ANC is portrayed, either post Polokwane, how their leadership is portrayed or how its ideology isn’t advanced to its satisfaction in the press.”