24 November 2011

Secrecy bill’s passage gains coverage in international and non-traditional media

International and social media coverage of the secrecy bill exploded on Tuesday, 22 November 2011, upon the announcement that the secrecy bill was adopted by an overwhelming majority of MPs at the South African National Assembly.

Among the major international sources that covered the story were the New York Times, CNN International, Reuters UK, Al-Jazeera, and international NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The New York Times reported that Parliament brushed aside "protests by press-freedom advocates and heroes of South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle" in order to pass "a contentious bill on Tuesday that will severely restrict the ability of journalists to report any information deemed to be a government secret."

Al Jazeera quoted Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu as saying it is "insulting to all South Africans to be asked to stomach legislation that could be used to outlaw whistle-blowing and investigative journalism ... and that makes the state answerable only to the state".

Noel Kutuwa, Amnesty International's deputy-director for Africa, was of the view that "This fatally flawed bill, which is totally at odds with the South African constitution, takes us right back to the apartheid-era restrictions on free speech."

South Africans took to social media en masse in order to voice their discontent with the adoption of the bill as well. Four of the top 10 trending topics on twitter in South Africa related to the secrecy bill's passage. In fact "#BlackTuesday" was the top trending topic of the day.

One of the most popular tweets of the day came from Hendri Lategan:

Many social media users displayed their discontent with the bill by changing their profile pictures to a black image as a somber reminder that this bill represents government censorship of free speech in South Africa.