The Secrecy Bill is a protection of information bill. The passing of the bill will see journalists and whistleblowers’ who publish ‘classified’ information put in jail for up to twenty-five years. The bill is one of the biggest insults to democracy since apartheid. Among the bill opponents are important people like Nelson Mandera, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, civil society organizations, and artists such Zapiro (Laing, 2011). Those who support the bill argue that it is a needed replacement for the secret legislations. This bill will censor all-important information that journalist send to print, which will be the downfall of democracy in South Africa. Enactment of the bill will bring about the rise of underground radio stations as well as newspapers to fight a regime that is not democratic.
The government should not enact the Secrecy Bill in South Africa because it is an assault on vigorous media and it will muzzle the press. The Secrecy Bill if enacted makes it easier for the government to protect secrets and punish the people who uncover them. This bill would also make it easy for government to hide corruption. It would not protect the information for the well-being of the public; it would protect the government and the ruling party as well as potential wrongdoers in official scrutiny from the media. The bill is a threat to free flow of information, which supports democracy in South Africa. The whistle blowers usually have the public interest at heart as they fuel scrutiny thus spreading the culture of self-enrichment and this has been very important since 1994.
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The cartoon by Zapiro shows reasons why South Africa should not enact the Secrecy Bill. Dr Jacob and Mr. Hide represent Dr. Zuma. The ‘Good’ Jacob Zuma is holding papers, which shows that he sacked ministers in his cabinet, disciplined the youth league - ANCYL, and set up an inquiry into the arms deal. The cartoon depicts his ‘bad’ side when he is holding the secrecy bill on his right hand and anti-media lawsuits on the left hand. This shows that he is pushing through the Secrecy Bill and supporting anti-media lawsuits, which is bad for the people. Protecting state information is insulting and flawed to all South Africans because the government wants them to support a legislation that it can use to outlaw investigative journalism as well as whistle blowers. This bill’s passing comes amid increasing unease about corruption in ANC government. In the beginning of February, South Africa outlook by Moody went down because of increased government interfering. In the Transparency International gauge of apparent corruption in the world, South Africa slid from 38th in 2001 to 54th in 2010 (Laing, 2011). The secrecy bill thus comes amid corruption and lack of transparency in ANC operations and the government should not enact it.
Information is power and people who are informed use the media to facilitate public discussion and raise their voices; this ensures accountability and even changes power relations with the government (R2K Media Freedom & Diversity Working Group, 2011). The emergence of national security considerations as a reason to deny the release of government records is a worrying trend, and this has led to the Secrecy Bill spawning the Right to Know Campaign (Shapiro 2011, p. 285). Archbishop Desmond Tutu termed the bill as an insult to all South Africans as it could prohibit investigative journalism, whistle blowing, and make the state accountable just to the state (Smith, 2011). The government's proposal to enact the Secrecy Bill in South Africa will give power to the state and silence to the media, and this will in turn curtail democracy. Currently, there is corruption and lack of transparency, which even makes enactment of the Secrecy Bill worse. Enactment of the bill will also lead to the up rise of underground journalists who will act as whistleblowers. The secrecy bill will censor the mass media and this will be the fall of democracy in the country.
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