15 June 2011

Take action!

Show your opposition to secrecy bill


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South Africa's Parliamentary Committee is ramming through an unconstitutional secrecy bill that could allow government institutions to operate without public scrutiny, and deter the media from exposing corruption. But public pressure has forced the Committee to continue the debate. Show your opposition to the bill before it becomes law by signing Avaaz's petition here.

Right now ruling party MPs are forcing the Parliamentary Committee to vote clause by clause on a "protection of information" bill that gives nearly every state body - from the National Art Gallery to every university in South Africa - the right to classify its information based on a vague definition of "national security". Citizens could be denied information on where their taxes are going, for example, as well other crucial information they may need to make important decisions.

Those found guilty of disclosing information could face a minimum of 15 years in jail. The provision is widely seen as an attempt to curb investigative reporting and criticism of the government.

But public pressure is pushing back. IFEX members the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) plus 400 other NGOs, media groups, unions, businesses and religious organisations - and even former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils - are working together under the banner of the Right2Know campaign to speak out against the clauses.

Last week, after Right2Know submitted amendments to Parliament and government ministries, ruling party MPs were forced to prolong finalising the bill until at least August from an original June deadline.

The Right2Know campaign is calling for a "new period of action" to stop the secrecy bill. "We call on all those who are seriously concerned by this turn of events to make their collective voices heard now," says Right2Know.

Right2Know wants the bill to be abandoned in its current form, and redrawn to be more transparent, have independent oversight, only apply to security and intelligence agencies, and ensure that media and whistleblowers that disclose secrets in the public interest are always protected.

Sign now, then forward this - when it reaches 50,000 signatories it will be delivered to Parliament, the Executive and key international allies.

Add your name here.


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