Speaker to ensure Secrecy Bill meets constitutional requirements

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Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise says she will make sure that the Protection of State Information Bill meets the constitutional requirements as envisaged by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The President has returned the controversial Bill back to the national legislature after questioning its constitutionality.

Some people are calling for the scrapping of the Secrecy Bill:

The then State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele first introduced the Bill in 2010. It drew strong criticism from civil society groups which they described as draconian.

The National Assembly first passed it in April 2013, but in September that year, former President Jacob Zuma sent it back to Parliament. It has been in limbo since then.

Spokesperson of Parliament Moloto Mothapo says after the Speaker finishes studying the correspondence from the President, she will begin the process that will determine how the envisaged piece of legislation will be processed.

“The Speaker has indeed received correspondence from the Presidency referring back to the National Assembly the State of Information Bill and the Liquor Products Amendments Bill for reconsideration by the House in line with the reservation that he expressed regarding the constitutional issues that he has with the bill.

“The Speaker will study the correspondence of the president and ensure an internal process that will determine how the House will determine the way forward, including referral to the correct committees of Parliament. This is particularly important given that for instance the Protection of State Information Bill was created through an Ad hoc committee that does not exist anymore. So, therefore a correct determination will be made regarding how parliament will proceed with the reservation expressed by the presidency to ensure constitutional compliance,” Mothapo explains.

Sanef welcomes the President’s decision to review the Secrecy Bill 

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) on Saturday welcomed Ramaphosa’s decision to have the Secrecy Bill reviewed and aligned with the constitution. The organisation said the forum’s key concern is the lack of a public interest dissent in the draft law and the review will now allow for this provision to be introduced.

The forum said the Protection of State Information Bill is an important piece of legislation, but not in its current form.

However, Sanef’s Executive Director Kate Skinner said certain aspects of the Bill violate the rights of journalists as well as the public’s rights to information and evidence of corruption and maladministration.

“There are a number of things in the Bill that are really problematic. One of the big issues is the fact there is no public interest dissent. If, for instance, there is information that journalists get classified information but it is actually really important that the public knows about it is actually in the public interest that they expose that information, report on it. At the moment, within the bill you can still, as a journalist, go to jail.”

Below is the full statement by SANEF.

SANEF says it welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to review the Secrecy Bill.