South African press club asks public to wear black in opposition to ‘secrecy bill’

November 21, 2011
Category: Uncategorized

BusinessDay | News24 | Bizcommunity
The National Press Club of South Africa is asking the country’s citizens to wear black on Tuesday to oppose a bill that the National Assembly is expected to vote on that day.

The South African Press Association explains what some critics call “the secrecy bill”:

If the bill is passed the media will not be able to claim it acted in the public interest if it violated or was party to the violation of a law, or published classified information to substantiate a report on, for example, malpractice or corruption in government.

Violators could face up to 25 years in jail for some offenses. The problem, of course, is that the government decides what information can and can’t be published. Critics have called the legislation the “secrecy bill” and claim the law is too broadly-written.

BusinessDay of Johannesburg reports:

The campaign title refers to October 19 1977, known as “Black Wednesday”, when The World and Sunday World newspapers and the Christian publication Pro Veritas, along with nearly 20 people or organisations, were banned by the apartheid government.

The title has been changed to refer to the day this week on which the National Assembly is expected to vote on the bill.

The ruling African National Congress party has criticized the “Black Tuesday” campaign, and at least one “veteran journalist and anti-apartheid activist” attacked the National Press Club for supporting the former Apartheid government.

News24’s Lauren Hess reports that Don Mattera, who worked at the Sowetan, the Sunday Times and the Weekly Mail said that:

… he and others had yet to be compensated for their activist work which involved him being under house arrest for 16 years and tortured.

He said it was ironic that those who never fought for liberation were now “ensconced” in the press club that was led by “pro-apartheid villains”.

Mattera, however, says he too is against the legislation.

On Friday, the Mail & Guardian of Johannesburg redacted large parts of its lead story on a presidential spokesman and his alleged involvement in an arms deal with a French company. The spokesman threatened legal action. Attorneys advised the paper not to publish.