2011-11-22 14:25:48

South Africa: Secrets bill passes despite harsh criticism

South Africa’s parliament passed a bill this afternoon defining state secrets and making it illegal to divulge them. The bill has been widely criticised as an attempt to muzzle media and intimidate whistle blowers who would face stiff prison sentences for releasing classified documents. Gunther Simmermacher is the editor of the Southern Cross, a South African Catholic Weekly. He told us that the legislation is seen as “an effort to clamp down on the media, that has a very good record of revealing scandals that affect the political elite of this country.”

“The idea is that the government departments, ministries, will be able to declare certain information secret,” he said. “And the mechanics of that, the critics say, will also include the possibility for politicians to cover up corruption and various other matters of public interest.” He said, “As a journalist, I am very, very alarmed indeed.” Listen to the complete interview of Gunther Simmermacher with Christopher Wells: RealAudioMP3

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