After a Week of Action to protest the Protection of Information Bill (the secrecy Bill) the Right2Know Campaign has emerged as a vibrant campaign with significant influence in the public discourse. This rapid growth has raised a number of questions and the R2K has called for a National Dialogue amongst campaign supports to deliberate on matters of the Campaign's scope, strategy, and structure .
Protection of Information Bill
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has warned that government's contentious draft Protection of Information Bill will threaten whistleblowers trying to root out corruption.
COSATU secretary-general, Zwelinzima Vavi, points out that, "COSATU is committed to free expression... I believe that the Protection of Information Bill as currently drafted clearly breaches these laws."
The current debate on the establishment of a Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) as a tool to offer a balance between the constitutional right of media freedom and the right of privacy, and more importantly other rights and values such as human dignity, is becoming a controversial and interesting topic to deliberate. However, there is need to understand the genesis of the current debate in order to be in a position to make an informed contribution. For instance, what does the proposed MAT seeks to achieve.
The proposed Protection of Information Bill before Parliament is the stupidest thing the present government has done, according to the South African writer, André P Brink.
Speaking during the Right2Know Campaign march protesting the Bill in Cape Town, Brink, argued that the government, which says the Bill is meant to protect national security, would not win.
Hundreds of people participated in a march through the Johannesburg city centre to commemorate Media Freedom Day and to protest against the Protection of Information Bill.
The organisation, which has gained the backing of more than 370 CSOs and 10 000 citizens since it launched a month ago, says the Protection of Information Bill, which it calls the ‘Secrecy Bill’, poses a threat to democracy.
The global advocacy group, Avaaz, has received almost 30 000 signatures for an online petition against the African National Congress' (ANC) proposed Media Appeals Tribunal.
Avaaz spokesperson, Alice Jay, says that 29 347 people have already signed up, since the petition started when the ANC held its National General Council (NGC) in Durban.
The Avaaz petition is also against the Protection of Information Bill, which had been criticised for posing a threat to media freedom.
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has called on the police to apologise for detaining two photographers and a cameraman at the court appearance of an alleged rhino poaching syndicate.
In a press statement, SANEF has expressed its shock at the arrest of three press photographers and the manhandling of one of them.
Civil society organisations have warned that repressive laws, such as the proposed Protection of Information Bill (POI) would come back to haunt the state further down the line.
Critics of newspapers’ self-regulatory system insist the Press Ombudsman is powerless to deal with damage caused by incorrect newspaper reports.
However, Press Ombudsman, Joe Thloloe’s findings suggest the ombudsman is far from biased in favour of newspapers. Thloloe’s findings could also embolden African National Congress (ANC) leaders meeting in Durban to step up calls for stricter curbs on an “irresponsible” media.
The decision last week by activists to publicise confidential government reports on provincial health departments will have been a crime if the proposed Protection of Information Bill were in force, according to Nathan Geffen, a researcher for Section 27, which leaked the reports with the Rural Health Advocacy Project.
Director of the Institute for Security Studies’ Cape Town office, Hennie van Vuuren, points out that Nathan and all his colleagues would be in jail if the information Bill was in place.