Idasa points out that the Protection of Information Bill and the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal are not one and the same, as their interchangeable use in the media has led many to believe. PIMS manager Judith February says: “The Protection of Information Bill will, if passed in its current form, have serious consequences for all ordinary citizens, not only journalists.”
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20 August 2010
Idasa notes with concern the ongoing confusion within both print and electronic media as regards the Protection of Information Bill and the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal. The Protection of Information Bill currently before Parliament proposes to set up a system of classification of information. We are of the view that this Bill will lead to over-classification of information by the state with grave consequences for citizens wishing to obtain information from the state in order to exercise their Constitutional rights. The Bill, we believe, will be a step backwards in the fight for open democracy.
It would seem that the Protection of Information Bill and the Media Appeals Tribunal are being used interchangeably in our public discourse. The Bill is a separate instrument to the proposed tribunal, which is a proposal within a discussion document to be presented at the ANC’s National General Council meeting next month. It is suggested that the tribunal deal with malicious reporting by journalists and such matters. Many are concerned, rightly, about its impact on press freedom. The Protection of Information Bill is not, however, the enabling legislation for the Media Appeals Tribunal. The Bill might have the unintended consequences of having a chilling impact on investigative journalism but it is not to be equated with the Media Appeals Tribunal.
Similarly, the Protection of Information Bill is not what is being referred to as a ‘Media Bill’.
Confusing the tribunal and the Bill has the further consequence of blurring the debate and speaking at crosspurposes.
The Protection of Information Bill will, if passed in its current form, have serious consequences for all ordinary citizens, not only journalists.
For more information, contact Judith February, Manager: Idasa’s Political Information and Monitoring Service, 083 4539817.