The ANC is determined to crack down on the disclosure of classified information before next yearÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s general election, writes Brendan Boyle in The Times.
If the Protection of Information Bill is enacted, it would prevent the publication of stories that expose corruption in the government.
The bill stipulates sentences of up to five years in prison for anyone who receives, publishes or passes on classified information.
A reporter who found that a classified document had been pushed under his door by someone trying to expose corruption, would face prison if he did not immediately hand the document to the police.
Lawyers at yesterdayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s public hearings on the Protection of Information Bill told The Times that a law derived from the bill in its present form would probably have prevented the investigation of national police commissioner Jackie SelebiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s alleged links with crime bosses, the exposure of the discredited Browse Mole report on Jacob ZumaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s purported foreign funders and the Travelgate fraud by MPs who abused their travel privileges.
ExposÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©s of corruption related to the arms deal could have been swept under the carpet, and even publication of Health Hinister Manto Tshabalala-MsimangÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s conviction for theft, and reports about her behaviour during a hospital stay, could have been blocked.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThis is draconian stuff,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â said Dario Milo, a lawyer representing Avusa Media, owners of The Times and the Sunday Times.
Milo said: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe bill allows for the massive invasion of political space.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBecause it allows for over-classification, many of the public-interest stories we have seen recently would not have been possible under this legislation.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Cecil Burgess, ANC chairman of an ad hoc committee steering the Protection of Information Bill through parliament, said public hearings were likely to be extended by half a day to allow late submissions by union federation Cosatu and the SA Communist Party.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhat we are dealing with here ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ are some of the more serious threats that the government has been facing in very recent times ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â the leaking of highly confidential documents,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he told The Times.
Click here to read the full report, posted on The Times website.