The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to have the controversial Secrecy Bill reviewed and aligned with the Constitution.
Sanef says the forum’s key concern is the lack of a public interest defence in the draft law and the review will now allow for this provision to be introduced.
“Throughout the years Sanef has joined forces with a number of media freedom groups and activists to raise awareness about the unconstitutional nature of many parts of the Bill. Further, we have made a number of submissions to Parliament. One of the most draconian aspects of the present Bill, for instance, includes a 15 to 25-year jail term for any journalist found to have ‘’classified” documents in their possession,” Sanef said in a statement issued on Friday.
“Sanef welcomes this opportunity to ensure that all aspects of the Bill that are unconstitutional, or too broadly defined, are redrafted – and we would be happy to give further input to finalize it,” the statement read.
Full statement below:
In 2019, Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa asked Parliament to reconsider and polish the draft law, which seeks to ensure a coherent approach to the protection of State information and the classification and declassification of state information. It also sets out procedures on how classified documents are to be handled during court proceedings and requires courts to prevent public disclosure of classified documents that form part of court records.
The Bill raised the ire of civil society organisations and opposition parties, who slammed it as undermining South Africans’ right to access information. They also believe it also threatens journalists’ and whistleblowers’ rights.