Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) notes with deep regret the decision taken in the National Assembly today to pass the Protection of Information Bill.
We call on President Zuma and the African National Congress to follow through on their pledge of a fully public and consultative process on this Bill. While civil society, including Media Monitoring Africa, has stated its willingness to challenge the Bill at the Constitutional Court, we believe it is not too late for President Zuma to ensure the Bill can pass constitutional muster. We call on President Zuma to send the Bill back for revision.
A further side effect of the Bill is that it has seen a trend towards national, provincial and local institutions tending towards a culture of secrecy. Several of the citizen protests that have taken place have been about people in poor communities demanding not only responses from local councillors but also information from their municipality. Each time the Bill is endorsed by national figures, the culture of secrecy is deepened.
On September 20 of this year, President Zuma was one of the world’s first signatories to the global Open Government initiative. In his opening remarks, President Zuma said, Open government in the South African case is premised on our progressive and transformative Constitution which enshrines a Bill of Rights and the principles of open governance.” We challenge the President, and the South African government, to live up to his words, and the spirit of our Constitution, and to fight the growing culture of secrecy.
In less than one week, South Africa will be the focus of the world’s attention as we host the climate change negotiations at COP-17 in Durban. Over 25,000 international participants, and 2,000 members of the world’s media, are expected to attend. As South Africa hosts the world at this critical event, concerns of press freedom, limiting access to information to activists and NGOs, and South Africa’s commitment to transparency and program should not dominate the agenda or media coverage.
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Researcher Policy & Quality Media Unit
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