Cwele unpacks Info Bill

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pretoria - The Protection of State Information Bill is not about supressing the media or concealing corruption, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele has clarified.

Speaking during the debate on the Bill in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Cwele explained that the current "1982 apartheid Protection of Information Act" was not suitable in the current democratic dispensation, which provided for the balanced flow of information and national security.

"The apartheid regime followed a narrow approach to national security, aimed at protecting the state, mainly from those fighting the oppression. From 1994, the democratic state followed a broader approach to national security, human security, which goes beyond securing the state to include protecting the people from fear or want," he said.

Media have condemned the Bill as a tool by government to silence journalists as under the Bill it would be illegal to disclose information regarded as sensitive.

However, Cwele said the Bill was required to criminalise the theft of government information by foreign spies and other "non-state actors" undermining the country's development agenda.

Information peddling was an increasing threat both locally and international, the minister noted. "Section 45 of the Bill criminalises and makes peddling not a profitable business."

The Bill would also be instrumental in protecting government data bases which hold citizens' information, he said.

The minister also reiterated that it was not necessary to include the public interest defence as a lot of work had been done to improve the checks and balances in the Bill, as well as to provide for the protection of whistleblowers.

The Bill was referred back to the Ad hoc Committee which processed it and it is expected to be back in the National Assembly for adoption soon.

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