We help launch anti-Secrecy Bill campaign

amaBhungane, a founder member of the Right2Know Campaign, participated on Tuesday August 31 in the launch of the campaign’s Stop the Secrecy Bill statement.

The statement demands the complete revision of the Protection of Information Bill, which is regarded as fundamentally at odds with constitutional rights including access to information and freedom of speech.

The statement was at the time of launch endorsed by some 200 civil society organisations already.

Hundreds of individual signatories included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer, Mazibuko Jara and Kader Asmal.

The launch, held at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, was a precursor to a week of action to commence on October 19—the commemoration of Black Wednesday in 1977, when the apartheid regime banned newspapers and black consciousness organisations.

Right2Know traces its origins to public hearings convened in July by the ad-hoc parliamentary committee processing the Bill.

Civil society organisations and media groups, including amaBhungane, made representations but were met with indifference and, in cases, outright hostility from MPs.

The campaign seeks to bring public pressure to bear to ensure politicians take note of legitimate concerns about the erosion of South Africans’ constitutional rights.

A Constitutional Court challenge is regarded as an ultimate remedy.

amaBhungane - whose mandate includes campaigning to “defend and expand the democratic space investigative journalists need to do their work”—serves on Right2Know’s steering committee along with representatives from the Alternative Information and Development Centre, the Freedom of Expression Institute, Open Democracy Advice Centre, Idasa, the Institute for Security Studies, the South African History Archive and the South African National Editors’ Forum.

The Stop the Secrecy Bill statement argues: “A responsive and accountable democracy that can meet the basic needs of our people is built upon transparency and the free flow of information.

The gains of South Africans’ struggle for freedom are threatened by the Protection of Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill) currently before Parliament.

“We accept the need to replace apartheid-era secrecy legislation. However, this Bill extends the veil of secrecy in a manner reminiscent of that same apartheid past.

This Bill fundamentally undermines the struggle for whistleblower protection and access to information. It is one of a number of proposed measures which could have the combined effect of fundamentally undermining the right to access information and the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution.”

* “Stop the Secrecy Bill” statement in full

* Sign on to the statement at the Right2Know website: www.right2know.org.za

* The Protection of Information Bill

* What’s wrong with the Bill? Briefing note

* amaBhungane presentation to Parliament

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