Zuma should send secrecy bill for further review

New York, November 14, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists urges South African President Jacob Zuma not to sign the revised Protection of State Information Bill and instead to send it to the Constitutional Court for review. The bill, which was sent back to parliament in September, was passed again by the National Assembly late on Tuesday.

“The National Assembly’s failure to amend the deeply chilling provisions of this bill is a bitter disappointment,” said CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine. “The assembly’s cursory revisions did little more than correct grammar and punctuation, and made a mockery of parliament’s duty to uphold the letter and spirit of South Africa’s constitution. It is now up to President Zuma to clearly demonstrate the country’s commitment to press freedom by sending the bill to the Constitutional Court for expert review.”

The Protection of State Information Bill, which has been dubbed the “Secrecy Bill,” has come under much criticism from civil society and press freedom organizations, who believe that the language of the legislation is wide open to interpretation and abuse by officials. The bill also allows for a journalist who discloses classified information to be charged with espionage, which carries up to 25 years in jail.