State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele has narrowed the scope of the Protection of Information Bill, but key elements of the legislation remain of concern to Media Monitoring Africa (MMA).
Minister Cwele addressed Parliament’s ad-hoc committee on the Protection of Information Bill. MMA welcomes the Minister’s acknowledgement that “national interest” and “commercial interest” should be removed as reasons for the classification of information as “secret”. However MMA questions why information that is protected under Copyright law for example, will continue to be classified as a matter of “national security”? Such an approach errs on the side of secrecy rather than openness.
The Minister stressed that he had listened to submissions made by civil society organisations and the public. Nevertheless he has ignored concerns about the severity of penalities for publishing information which may classified as secret under the Bill (10 – 15 years), even when to do so may be in the public interest.
Minister Cwele stressed that this is the start of a “long and challenging process to finalize a law that will be equal to the challanges facing our country”. MMA calls on the Minister not merely to hear but to listen and to resist a desire for secrets and shadows and opt instead for culture of openness and transparency.