The SA National Editors' Forum welcomes the withdrawal by the parliamentary Ad-Hoc Portfolio Committee on Intelligence of the Protection of Information Bill to which Sanef vigorously objected during the committees' public hearings, according to a media release.
The Ad-Hoc Committee has stated that it had reached an impasse on the proposed treatment of private intelligence companies in the Protection of Information Bill and decided that too much work needed to be done on the Bill and the time left in the parliamentary term was insufficient to enable this to be achieved. Consequently it has withdrawn the Bill but plans to introduce it in the new parliament next year.
Sanef's objections to the Bill were that the provisions were too broad, related the protection of information to the national interest rather than national security interests and indeed encompassed practically every conceivable activity or conduct under the broad mantle of protecting the national interest. It paid scant attention to the Constitutional ethos that SA should strive to be an open, transparent and accountable society and that classification of documents as secret should be described in the narrowest of terms.
Sanef presented the view that the legislation should be fashioned to pursue the principles of the Promotion of Access to Information Act by protecting the right to the widest possible access to information and where there is a requirement for preventing disclosure of information this should be on the narrowest of grounds, clearly defined with set limitations on the extent of secrecy. The Bill should also place high value on the disclosure of information in the public interest as distinct from the far more limited concept of the national interest.
Though welcoming the withdrawal of the Bill, Sanef believes that before it is presented again to parliament there should be extensive consultation with the media to ensure that the broad principles outlined above are adhered to. Sanef believes there was insufficient consultation with interests likely to be affected by the Bill before it was presented to parliament.
Issued by: SA National Editors' Forum (SANEF)
For further comment please contact:
Jovial Rantao ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ SANEF Chairperson: 082 446 6008
Khathu Mamaila ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ SANEF Media Freedom Chairperson: 083 274 3941
Raymond Louw ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ SANEF Council Member: 011 646 8790 / 082 446 5155