South Africa passes secrecy bill, opposition: dark day for freedom
South Africa’s parliament passed a law to protect state secrets Tuesday. Opposition parties, labor unions and media companies protested that it limits free speech and stifles efforts to expose corruption.
The ruling African National Congress pushed the Protection of State Information Bill through the parliament by 229 votes to 107. Under this law, anyone revealing a state classified secret would face up to 25 years in jail.
Critics are concerned that officials will abuse the bill, while the press criticized it as an attempt to silence journalists.
Members of the South African National Editors’ Forum and the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association took to streets in Cape Town.
“We are broken inside,” Mondli Makhanya, editor-in-chief of Avusa Ltd. Newspapers and the chairman of the forum. “We never thought we’d come here dressed in black to actually witness democracy, this constitution of ours, being betrayed.”
Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said Monday that the legislation was an insult to South Africans.
The law raised doubts about the South Africa’s commitment to fight corruption. The state’s relationship with the local media has deteriorated as newspapers reported on scandals, including those of President Jacob Zuma.
“Today is a dark day for freedom of expression in South Africa. This fatally flawed bill, which is totally at odds with the South African Constitution, takes us right back to the apartheid-era restrictions on free speech,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa.
Opposition parties plan to challenge the bill at the Constitutional Court. [...]
Where are the expressions of International Outrage now? How about even an international expression of disapproval? Or even a wimper of concern?
I won't hold my breath waiting.
But I am hoping that the bill will be successfully challenged and defeated.
South Africa Passes Law to Restrict Reporting of Government Secrets