Thursday, 29 November 2012 17:15

SA’s secrecy bill passed

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Despite national and international condemnation of South Africa's controversial Secrecy Bill, South African MPs have overwhelmingly approved it.


Meanwhile the Democratic Alliance said it would petition the Constitutional Court to have the bill declared unconstitutional. The bill has still to be signed by Jacob Zuma before it will become law.

The Bill was earlier criticized by Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu who called it "insulting". The ANC says the law will safeguard state secrets and national security.

The Protection of State Information Bill is designed to replace outdated apartheid-era legislation on classified information and espionage, but has met fierce opposition in a country where the media regularly uncover wrongdoing and government excess. SA lower house of Parliament has yet to approve it (should be a rubber stamp) and then it needs to be signed by Zuma before it comes into power (early 2013).

The bill will give the ANC lead government the power to classify documents as secret. This include reports about government corruption. People who publish it, like journalists, could be sentenced to jail terms of up to 25 years – even if they are only in possession of these documents. Citizens and journalists will be treated as spies if found in possession of this information.

The ANC says the bill is on par with international standards.