The government’s Protection of Information Bill could have disastrous consequences should it be passed in its current form, say two gay ally organisations. This comes amid news that the government is intent on fast-tracking the legislation despite growing opposition.
In a statement, HIV/AIDS activists groups TAC and Section27 slammed reports that the ANC Parliamentary Caucus is backtracking on its recent concessions in relation to the Bill, concessions which the groups described as already “inadequate”.
“This Bill will protect corruption and unaccountability by granting a wide range of public officials the right to classify information as secret and by criminalising whistle-blowing and imposing jail sentences on those who publish classified information,” they warned.
“We believe that the bill is unconstitutional and could have disastrous consequences for democracy should it be passed in its current form.”
The ANC has rejected calls to allow a “public interest” clause to be included in the bill which would allow for the legitimate disclosure of secrets in the public interest.
TAC and Section27 support the Right2Know campaign
The groups added that the bill could hamper their “effectiveness at getting the state to implement HIV treatment and prevention programmes” because this is “dependent on the Constitution being upheld, especially the Bill of Rights”.
The TAC and Section27 also expressed their support for the Right2Know campaign, which is lobbying against the current version of the information bill.
They called for the legislation to be amended so that it would limit secrecy to strictly defined national security matters and that what is made secret be decided by an independent body appointed by Parliament which is subject to review by the courts.
The TAC was a key player in using the courts to force the government to treat HIV positive people with antiretroviral drugs during President Mbeki’s disastrous denialist era.