amaBhungane condemns secrecy Bill adoption

The Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) strongly condemns the adoption today of a final draft by Parliament's ad-hoc committee processing the Protection of State Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill).

The committee, and in particular the ANC majority members, forced through a number of highly contentious provisions in the face of unprecedented civil society and media opposition, bequeathing a profoundly undemocratic piece of legislation to South Africa.

Download the final draft of the Bill

The lack of a public interest defence, which would have allowed those who leak classified information to avoid harsh penalties should they show that the public interest in exposure outweighs any harm to national security, is only the highwater mark of the Bill's profound incompatibility with constitutional values and the Bill of Rights.

Further provisions relating to the possession and disclosure of classified information are irrational and draconian, and will tend to instill a culture of secrecy, rather than promote the openness on which our democracy is founded.

The rights of access to information and freedom of the media and speech will be irrevocably compromised.

This is a sad day for investigative journalists, journalists in general, activists, academics, unionists, and many, many others—in fact any person who would benefit from the free flow of information and open, accountable government.

Should Parliament pass this deeply flawed legislation as expected, a Constitutional Court challenge may remain the only option. The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism's mandate includes to "defend and expand the democratic space investigative journalists need to do their work".

We will add our weight to the challenge.

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email amabhungane@mg.co.za

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours.
See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

Stefaans Brümmer

Stefaans Brümmer

Stefaans is an old hand at investigations. A politics and journalism graduate, he cut his reporting teeth at the Cape Argus in the tumultuous early 1990s; then joined the Mail & Guardian as democracy dawned in April 1994. For the next 16 years (a late-1990s diversion into television and freelancing apart), the M&G was his journalistic home and launch pad for award-winning investigations focusing on the nexus between politics and money. Stefaans has co-authored exposés including Oilgate, the Selebi affair, Chancellor House and significant breaks in the arms deal scandal. Stefaans and Sam Sole co-founded amaBhungane in 2010. He divides his time between the demands of media bureaucracy (which he detests), coaching members of the amaBhungane team, and his first love, digging for dung. Read more from Stefaans Brümmer

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