Secrecy Bill withdrawal a victory for civil society and media

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism regards the withdrawal of the Protection of State Information Bill from Parliament for further consultation as a victory for civil society and the media in our pursuit of the rights of access to information and freedom of speech.

We identify with the Right2Know statement below, emphasising that the opportunity for further engagement should be used to ensure that no version of the Bill as flawed as the present will reach Parliament again.

The centre is a founding member of Right2Know.

R2K Statement in Response to delay of Secrecy Bill
18 September 2011

The Right2Know Campaign applauds the 11th-hour decision to delay a Parliamentary vote on the Secrecy Bill for "further consultations and debates".

This represents a victory for the campaign and for ordinary people across South Africa, in the ongoing struggle against secrecy and for access to information.

The campaign's optimism that our politicians will get it right this time will be tempered by the insistence of ANC MPs today [Monday] that the ruling party still sees no need for a public interest defence. This remains a key demand of the campaign and of civil society.

Our optimism is similarly tempered by a concern that today's apparent retreat on the Bill may used by securocrats within the ruling party to reclaim their dominance over ANC democrats that clearly at last are speaking out. The divisions emerging within the alliance over the draconian provisions of this Bill are evidence of this struggle.

However, the simple fact that the ANC has undertaken to consult with its constituencies, other political parties and to "engage views from the broader society" has the potential—if fully implemented—to meet the key Right2Know demand that the Bill in its current form be scrapped and referred back to the people.

Now is a time for all democrats to redouble their efforts.
Now is the time for people across South Africa to make themselves heard loud and clear. No secrecy law incompatible with our right to know must reach Parliament ever again. Let the truth be told. Stop this Secrecy Bill!

The passing of the Protection of State Information Bill came as no surprise, raising the threat to media freedom. View our special report.

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