The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said it opposes the Protection of Information Bill which was passed yesterday in Parliament and called the Upper Chamber to review the legislation which claims to “protect” state information. The draft law provides for a maximum jail term of 25 years against journalists who are convicted of publishing or possessing state documents that the Government deems classified.
“This bill is a regrettable setback for South Africa and the continent,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “The adoption of the bill would negatively impact on the fate of access to information and good governance in Africa”.
The ruling party ANC hailed the bill as a necessary measure to protect South Africa’s national security information from foreign spies. However media organisations and civil society groups consider this as a “Secrecy Bill” that is detrimental to ethical journalism and democracy. South Africa was the first African country to adopt and implement a freedom of information act in 2000. Last September the Pan African conference on Access to information took place in Cape Town and adopted a declaration to be endorsed by African Union UNESCO and the United Nations.
The bill must be passed in the upper house, the National Council of Provinces before it becomes enforceable.
The IFJ calls on the South African Government to reconsider the bill in line with the international standards in order to serve as a role model in the Continent as it has been over the last decade.
For more information contact the IFJ at +221 33 867 95 87 / +32 2 235 2200
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 131 countries worldwide