07 June 2012

R2K calls on spy agency to recognise SA's calls for public interest defence








The State Security Agency yesterday reiterated their rejection of a public interest defence in the NCOP committee on the Secrecy Bill, and argued that it could result in damage to national security. In doing so, they have ignored the voices of multitudes of South African calling for a public interest defence, from both inside and outside of Parliament. The SSA is maintaining that it cannot trust its members to only disclose information in the public interest without compromising real national security interests.

The Agency has also stood firm on a clause that would ensure the Secrecy Bill trumps the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), which aims to promote people's right to access information. Given that PAIA itself has routinely failed as a mechanism to ensure that people's right to access information is upheld, it is unacceptable that the Secrecy Bill should be used to further undermine transparency.

The public interest defence is not a cloak for the malevolent - we are asking that genuine disclosure of classified information in the public interest be protected, from civil servants, agency employees to journalists, readers, researchers and community activists. The SSA don't seem to appreciate the real deterrent effect that will remain even if a public interest defence is included. People who use such a defence will still be taking an extraordinary risk when blowing the whistle. The concession by the ANC that disclosure of information that shows criminal activity should be protected from prosecution is a small step in the right direction and should be welcomed.

However, we think the Agency should do more to expose corruption and manipulation of its members, and recognise that powerful institutions that are shut off from public scrutiny are a threat to national security.

Right 2 Know press release