Parliament on Wednesday began public hearings on a new bill to replace the National Key Points Act, something which opponents have rejected, claiming it will promote secrecy and undermine accountability.
The Portfolio Committee on Police is hearing public comment on the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill, which seeks to replace the apartheid-era National Key Points Act.
The Right2Know Campaign said today it believes the new Bill replicates the weaknesses of the Protection of State Information Bill and fails to protect people who expose secret information in the public interest.
“If the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill were law, hundreds or thousands of government buildings and private institutions could be declared ‘Critical Infrastructure’ (national key points). The lack of public consultation on the declaration of Critical Infrastructure is concerning. We find it problematic that neither the Minister nor the Council is required to engage in public consultation on a decision to declare a specific entity as critical infrastructure,” the Right2Know Campaign said.
There would be harsh criminal penalties for revealing ‘security measures’ at these sites – even in situations such as Nkandla, where the security upgrades were a matter of serious public importance.
The Bill could ban the photographing, filming or recording of any aspect of a site that is declared to be’ Critical Infrastructure’ – not just the security measures – and Right2Know believe that this poses a serious threat to freedom of expression. This could make it a crime to take a selfie at Parliament, OR Tambo airport, or the SABC studios.
“The Bill goes beyond the National Key Points Act by putting in place harsh new penalties which could stop protests and labour strikes at sites that are declared Critical Infrastructure. We acknowledge several improvements in this version of the Bill, but ultimately it does not undo the damage created by the National Key Points and should be taken back to the drawing board,” Right2Know said.