Govt to consult media on the new Bill

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pretoria - The South African media will be consulted on the drafting of regulations that will detail the implementation of Protection of Information legislation once the law is finalised.

This was a commitment made by State Security Minister Dr Siyabonga Cwele to the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) at a meeting held in Pretoria on Friday.

The minister said editors would be consulted on the drafting of the regulations to ensure that the law is not used to infringe on the work of the media specifically.

The Sanef delegation had earlier set out a number of concerns it still had with the Bill, including its view for the need to insert a public interest defence clause on the publication of classified information, and the establishment of an independent review mechanism for the classification and adjudication of information.

The points raised were discussed during the two-hour meeting and the minister undertook to take Sanef's reiterated concerns and submissions forward for discussion with government.

Friday's meeting followed discussions between government and Sanef last month on government's interaction with the media, and media freedom as part of South Africa's Constitutional democracy.

Cwele gave Sanef the assurance that government viewed media as partners in building a modern democracy "even though we compete for information".

"We need to build more synergy than see each other as opponents," he said.

The proposed legislation would be a law of general application, without specific conditions applying to the media, as government had no intention to muzzle media.

Sanef welcomed "softening" changes already made to the proposed legislation but argued that further checks and balances were required for the value of the changes made to date to be realised.

"The dialogue was constructive and we welcomed the minister's transparent attitude and understanding of the role of the media and its importance in our democracy," said Mary Papayya, SANEF Deputy Chair.