The ‘Secrecy Bill’ is back

Right2Know has condemned remarks by State Security Minister David Mahlobo recommitting government to the implementation of the Protection of State Information Bill.

City Press reported on Sunday (10 May) that Mahlobo has been drafting regulations for the Bill, otherwise known as the “Secrecy Bill”.

This is despite the fact that the draft law is still sitting with President Jacob Zuma, where it has been for the past 18 months.

According to the report, Mahlobo said the draft regulations are at an “advanced stage”, laying the groundwork for the Bill to be implemented as soon as it becomes law.

City Press quoted the Minister as saying, “I know that when I came in, they were holding the bill back…It’s a good law. I’ve read it.”

Right2Know, which has been fighting alongside many oppositional groups against the Bill since August 2010, condemned the controversial Bill’s return, painting a bleak reality for freedom should it come into law.

According to R2K, the Bill would criminalise whistleblowers, investigative journalists, and civil society activists who use information and freedom of expression to hold secretive government dealings to account.

The Bill’s broad and elastic definition of ‘espionage’, carries penalties of up to 25 years in jail, and has no public interest defence.

“Given the Presidency’s silence on the Secrecy Bill in the past 18 months, it would have been fair to assume that government had effectively rejected the draconian Bill,” the group said.

“We welcome this admission of the Bill’s fatal flaws – the right thing to do is to either send it back to Parliament to start afresh, or to refer it directly to the Constitutional Court.”

Instead, Mahlobo’s remarks promise that the Bill is to be returned to the fast track, despite its devastating effect on the free flow of information, it said.

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The ‘Secrecy Bill’ is back