Outstanding issues with the Secrecy Bill are not fixed

Outstanding issues with the Secrecy Bill are not fixed

APRIL 15 2013

By Murray Hunter: Right2Know Campaign

THE Right2Know Campaign wishes to address recent comments in Parliament that seek to suggest that the outstanding problems with the Secrecy Bill are all but fixed.

Despite some welcome amendments during the National Council of Provinces deliberations, the bill has fallen far short of calls for a just and constitutional law that fulfils the basic requirements of openness and transparency.

The bill would still criminalise ordinary citizens for possession of classified information — even information already in the public domain. In other words, any ordinary citizen accessing a leaked document in the public domain could face jail penalties of between five and 25 years.

The bill promotes a concept of national security that is still broadly defined and open to abuse, which will risk overclassification by state and private bodies.

The "espionage" provisions will not apply to foreign spies only, but are so vaguely defined that they would ensnare researchers, journalists and community activists alike and pose a real threat to the free flow of information.

These are just some of the critical issues that remain unresolved in the bill.

To suggest that these concerns have been sufficiently addressed — or that these deep underlying problems have become less grave over time — is to dismiss the broadness and the depth of public opposition to the bill’s most Draconian clauses.

The struggle against secrecy in general and the secrecy bill in particular will not dissipate and cannot be dismissed.