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Friday, 14 November 2014 09:30

Info Bill Debate at Turning Point

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    Who drives the jet?Who drives the jet?Trevor Samson
     

    The special ad hoc committee dealing with the "secrecy bill"  deleted provisions... 

    "The particular clause would allow that the Protection of State Information Bill to prevail over all other laws except the constitution itself. This would have meant that the secrecy bill would trump the Promotion of Access to Information Act...

    In October the ad hoc committee of the National Council of Provinces removed the clause. Mr Cwele then attended the committee and asked for the clause to be reinserted, which was duly done. Now the in, then out, then in again clause has again been removed at the behest of the ANC in the committee.

    In what was another blow for Mr Cwele, it was also suggested that a clause that would protect those revealing classified information in order to expose criminality should also be reinserted in the bill. In his October plea to the committee, Mr Cwele insisted that even this watered-down version of a public interest defence for those revealing state secrets should be removed from the draft law.

    Now the committee is considering putting this protection for whistle-blowers and investigative journalists back into the bill. The move was welcomed by the Democratic Alliance opposition in the committee.

    The committee has to complete its work by the end of November, which means the bill has only next week to be finalised and voted on in a plenary of the National Council of Provinces.

    It would then be sent to the National Assembly for the National Council of Provinces amendments to be approved. The National Council of Provinces has made significant changes to the bill that was approved by the National Assembly earlier this year."

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    "THE African National Congress on Tuesday used its majority muscle in the National Council of Provinces to force the secrecy bill through the council’s special ad hoc committee.

    When the meeting began, the ANC tabled a draft report on the deliberations of the committee and the amendments that had been agreed for the Protection of State Information Bill.

    Opposition parties were given a scant 10 minutes to study the 22-page report. They all left the meeting and did not return, leaving the ANC to approve the report and vote in favour of the bill being debated on Thursday in a plenary session of the council.

    The bill is still highly contested, with opposition parties and the civil society campaign Right2Know insisting it is unconstitutional. Approval in the council on Thursday will almost guarantee it is challenged in the Constitutional Court.

    The bill has been sharply criticised for years for failing to protect whistle-blowers and investigative journalists from criminal sanction if they publicise classified information that is clearly in the public interest. The harsh penalties contained in the bill have also been highly contentious."

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