AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - "No to the new draft law on State security", says the Archbishop of Cape Town

Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - "It is a bill that undermines the right to information which is of vital importance for the full exercise of other civil rights, and violates the constitutional commitment to create an open and transparent government". This is how His Exc. Mgr. Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town, in South Africa, criticizes the Protection of State Information Bill (PSIB), a bill aimed at strengthening the powers of the State Security Agency.
"The bill comprehensively protects the State Security Agency from public scrutiny because it allows the Agency itself to decide what it wishes to be kept secret", said Mgr. Brislin in a statement sent to Fides. "Any illegal activity by the Agency could therefore easily be hidden from scrutiny and legal process. Furthermore, the law gives the Minister of State Security too much power and allows the Minister to extend the right to classify as secret information, thereby increasing the chance that illegal activities will be hidden in the name of State Security".
The Archbishop of Cape Town recalled that despite several changes have been made to the Bill since it was first proposed, a major weakness is that no provisions are made for public interest defence for the disclosure of supposedly secret information about which the public has a right to know.
In addition, severe punitive action can be taken against whistleblowers and journalists if they are in possession of, or public material, that is deemed classified information, even if it is within the public’s interest to know about it.
Several religious leaders and NGOs protested against PSIB. "As the Catholic Church in Cape Town we have the duty to continue opposing this Bill, not only as members of civil society, but also because there is a moral imperative to serve the common good. This Bill does not serve the interests of the nation and can be used to damage our democracy and lead us on the road, once again, to a Security State" concludes Mgr. Brislin, referring to the strong security apparatus created at the time of apartheid. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 20/01/2012)

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