2 Dec 2011
Creamer Media's Polity speaks to Media Monitoring Africa's William Bird about the Protection of State Information Bill. Bird outlines the key purposes of the Bill and how the legislations sets out to achieve these.
One of the reasons there has been so much controversy around the Bill is because it has tried to deal with two kinds of information and confused their aims and objectives, argues Bird.
One of the most problematic aspects of the Bill is that instead of making access to information the state's default position, it has had the effect of making "protection of information" it's default position -- and as such is developing a culture of secrecy in government. Rather than encouraging state institutions to give out more information, their default position has become, "Sorry, you can't have that information, it's classified," explains Bird.
Another problem is that the protection given to whistle blowers isn't anywhere near enough. While there is some protection, it is very limited. The Bill, in fact, makes the whistle blowers job much harder.
Neverthless, the Bill has the potential become a very good piece of legislation, argues Bird, "if it gets fixed".