The media has been called to report fairly on the Protection of Information Amendment Bill, which is currently before an ad-hoc committee in Parliament. The call was made by committee chairman, Cecil Burgess, during deliberations on the Bill yesterday.
He said that it was “irresponsible” for the media to confuse the Bill with the introduction of a media tribunal, adding that it had nothing to do with secrecy but was aimed at ensuring responsibility, the state BuaNews agency said. Burgess said the Bill was about the protection of “valuable” and “sensitive” information.
The Bill is largely being supported by African National Congress (ANC) committee members, while facing rebuff from opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The committee debated and voted on clause by clause of the bill, and State Law Advisors are available to help with amendments.
After going through the clauses, Burgess said those members who do not agree with the amendments would have another chance to “persuade” their colleagues on what they wanted to see in the bill. He called on opposition parties to come up with fresh arguments as to why they would not support the bill.
The opposition said the bill was going to give too much power to the Minister of State Security, who they fear might have too much control over government departments. The DA’s Dene Smuts called for a number of clauses in the bill to be scrapped. The IFP’s Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said the State Security Minister had no competency to classify information, instead departments could do so.
He said if the State Security Minister was given power to classify information, he might become the “minister of every department.”