The South African Parliament has passed the Secrecy Bill (the Protection of State
Information Bill) and now President Zuma must apply his mind in considering signing
it into law. The Right2Know (R2K) Campaign calls on all freedom-loving South Africans
and democrats across the world to contact President Zuma and appeal to him to stop
the Secrecy Act and either return the Bill to Parliament for redrafting, or send it
directly to the Constitutional Court for review.
You can send the following email to the President at email@example.com and the
President’s Spokesperson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to copy in
Dear President Zuma,
I am writing to you to call on you to not sign the Secrecy Bill (the Protection of State
Information Bill) into law. I call on you to either return the Bill to Parliament for
redrafting, or send it directly to the Constitutional Court for review. The reasons for
my objection to the Bill are listed below – these are concerns I share with thousands
of other people who have united to form the Right2Know Campaign:
- We demand a just and limited classification law that promotes our Constitutional
rights. The current Secrecy Bill undermines our freedom of expression and right to
access information guaranteed in the Constitution.
- We demand a full Public Interest Defence. The current Secrecy Bill only has
narrow protection for whistleblowers and public advocates that excludes a range of
matters in the public interest like shady tendering practices or improper appointments
within key state agencies.
- We demand full whistleblower protection. Under the current Secrecy Bill a
whistleblower, journalist or activist who discloses a classified record with the purpose
of revealing corruption or other criminal activity may be prosecuted under the
“espionage’ and other offences not covered by the proposed Public Interest Defence.
- Don’t criminalise the public as spies. In the current Secrecy Bill people can be
charged with “espionage’, “receiving state information unlawfully’ (to benefit a
foreign state), and “hostile activity’ without proof that the accused intended to
benefit a foreign state or hostile group or prejudice the national security; only that
the accused knew or “ought reasonably to have known’ that this would be a “direct or
- Limit the Bill to to the security agencies. The current Secrecy Bill still gives
powers of the Minister of State Security to give classification powers to other state
bodies (and junior officials) without adequate public consultation.
- Include a Public Domain Defence. The current Secrecy Bill effectively criminalising
the population at large. When classified information becomes public it is no longer a
secret. Rather than holding those responsible for keeping secrets accountable, the
current Bill punishes anyone who accesses information once it has been leaked into
the public domain.
- Reduce draconian sentences. The current Secrecy Bill still contains draconian
sentences of up to 25 years in jail. These are out of line with international practice
and will have a chilling effect on anyone in possession of information in the public
- Don’t undermine the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). The
procedure in the current Bill permitting applications for the declassification of
classified information is in conflict with the PAIA – despite commitments from
Parliament to the contrary.
- Demand an independent review panel. The body established to review
classification (a Classification Review Panel) is not sufficiently independent and the
simple possession of classified information appears to be illegal even pending a
request for declassification and access.
- Let the Apartheid truth be told! Information that has been made secret in terms
of old and potentially unconstitutional laws and policies will remain classified under
the current Secrecy Bill pending a review for which no time limit is set. This includes
information classified under the apartheid-era Protection of Information Act of 1982
and the government policy adopted in 1996, the Minimum Information Security
- Defend our democracy! If passed the Bill would add to the general trend towards
secrecy, fear and intimidation that is growing in South Africa today.
We call on you to apply your mind and reject the Secrecy Bill (Protection of State
Information Bill) and uphold the values of openness and transparency that you and
others have fought for in the past.