The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 61st annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on June 25 2012 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, by unanimous vote expressed strong support for the call by 10 nation states at a recent meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission for South Africa’s bill for the Protection of State Information to be withdrawn or redrafted so that it complies with international human rights standards.
The nation states, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Portugal, Sweden and the US, expressed grave concern that the bill if enacted would restrict freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
The media in South Africa has vigorously opposed the bill, which has been labelled the “Secrecy Bill”. The main grounds of their opposition are that the law will be applied too widely, give the State Security Minister excessive powers, has failed to provide a public interest defence for journalists and whistle-blowers and contains punitive punishments of jail sentences ranging from three years to 25 years.
Media organisations and opposition political parties in the country have stated that if the bill is passed in its present form they will refer it to the Constitutional Court to rule on its constitutionality.
IPI members call on the South Africa government to immediately draft a new bill that will comply with the country’s constitution and its international obligations. IPI reminds the government that an essential element in the conduct of the democracy that it introduced to the country in 1994 is the dissemination of public interest information so that the public should be adequately informed.