CPJ urges South Africa to revise cybercrime bill that limits press freedom

New York, December 10, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the South African government to revise provisions in the proposed Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill that would limit journalists’ ability to work. Under the bill, journalists and members of the public could be prosecuted for possessing or disclosing state information, reports said.

“While we appreciate that South Africa must define and proscribe cybercrime, it must do so in line with international best practice regarding access to information and with respect to its own constitution,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine. “The constitution explicitly prioritizes the building of a democratic and open society and enshrines privacy rights for citizens.”

The proposed Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill would impose police and intelligence control over the Internet and enable state security ministers to declare certain topics off limits, news reports said. A lack of a public interest defense in the bill, which would have allowed state information to be shared in the interests of exposing corruption or wrongdoing, has been criticized by local journalists and freedom of speech advocates. The bill is open for public comment until December 14.