POIB: Sanef still wants public interest defence clause
The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has welcomed President Jacob Zuma's decision to refer the Protection of State Information Bill back to Parliament for reconsideration.
Sanef says it agrees with the remarks made by the president that certain sections of the Bill are irrational and unconstitutional. The Bill criminalises the possession and dissemination of classified state information even if such information is in the public interest.
Sanef has consistently argued for the inclusion of a public interest defence clause to protect journalists and whistle blowers.
Sanef is still concerned, however, about the provisions that allow for broad classification of information, including that which has nothing to do with security of the state, and the delegated authority to undefined state officials the power to classify information.
The organisation says these provisions should be amended so that they are in line with the transparent governance system envisaged in the Constitution.
Parliament has the opportunity to reconsider other provisions as well
Although the president cited a few problematic provisions to explain his decision, Sanef believes Parliament has an opportunity to reconsider other provisions which may be unconstitutional.
Sanef previously called on the president to refer the Bill to the Constitutional Court before he signs it into law. Last month, lawyers representing Sanef and Print and Digital Media SA - a body that represents media owners - wrote to the president, urging him to send the Bill back to Parliament.
The president's remarks suggest that he has listened to concerns raised by Sanef and other interested parties.
The Sanef statement adds: "We welcome the president's decision to reject the Bill in its current form. The latest developments will give our lawmakers another opportunity to fix this piece of legislation that has the potential to seriously undermine media freedom in South Africa.
"Sanef will continue to participate in efforts to craft a Bill that promotes transparency and openness in the conduct of state affairs."
The National Press Club fully supports Sanef's sentiments and has also welcomed President Zuma's decision to refer the POIB back to Parliament.