[Fwd: Black Tuesday 2]

The controversial Protection of Information Bill has been attracting
international attention, most of it unfavourable, as it heads towards
adoption in Parliament.

Newspapers in the US and Britain especially have written about the
so-called "secrecy bill", focusing on sharp criticism of it by people
such as Nobel Prize for Literature winner and ANC member Nadine

Britain's Daily Telegraph said Gordimer had warned that, through the
bill, the ANC was taking South Africa "back to the suppression of free
expression" of the apartheid era.

"Her intervention is hugely significant," the paper said. "Gordimer was
a close friend of Nelson Mandela (he read her novel Burger's Daughter in
jail in Robben Island and asked her to visit as soon as he came out) and
she helped lead the fight against apartheid in her native South Africa."

The Telegraph also quoted Gordimer as saying: "People have fought and
died to gain the opportunity for a better life, which is ruined and
dirtied by corruption. The corrupt practices and nepotism that they
allow themselves is exposed if we have freedom of expression."

The Voice of America said: "The measure would update apartheid-era
provisions, and punish those who publish classified information with up
to 25 years in jail.

"Critics say the proposed law is extreme, and have argued for a clause
that allows revealing state secrets in the public interest."

The Washington Post noted that Gordimer was one of many critics of the
bill, who also included "prominent ANC members... among them a former
state security minister (Ronnie Kasrils)".

Critics "within and outside the governing party" had warned the
legislation "would smother freedom of expression and make it harder to
fight corruption".

The Washington Post also noted the fears of activists that for South
Africa - "known for one of the continent's freest and most open
constitutions" - to pass such legislation - "could influence other
countries in the region".

When the bill was introduced last year, along with a proposal for a
media tribunal, the Wall Street Journal said the measures "could reshape
South Africa's media industry".

As the bill got closer to being put to the vote, the newspaper said the
"tensions over the media are part of a searching national debate over
the political course of a key African democracy".

It quoted Anton Harber, head of the Wits Journalism School, as warning
that other African countries looked up to South Africa and the bill was
a "bad example for the rest of the continent".

The Christian Science Monitor said the ANC was "close to dramatically
restricting the rights of citizens to monitor the actions of their
government officials".

It had earlier quoted Karin Karlekar, managing editor of the Freedom of
the Press report for Freedom House in New York, as saying: "We see this
as part of a broader trend in South Africa, and it's very worrying."

The Monitor said Freedom House had downgraded South Africa from "free"
to "partly free", in its Freedom of the Press rankings.

"Historically, South Africa was one of the top performers in the past 15
years, as a model for other African countries," Karlekar said. "In South
Africa, as in other countries, the media are one of the watchdogs of
society in support of good governance in institutions, and to take (it)
away... weakens democracy as a whole."

The Monitor also noted: "Curiously, some African countries - notably
Kenya and Nigeria - have moved in the opposite direction... enshrining
the freedom of information... Nigeria enacted a Freedom of Information

But it also quoted analyst Steven Friedman, director of the Democracy
and Governance programme at the University of Johannesburg, as saying
although the bill was "horrible", there was "no way this legislation is
going to shut down investigative journalism".

Friedman cited the clauses "that say you can't classify information in
order to cover up government incompetence, or to protect the government
from embarrassment".

US embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said: "The US supports the
freedom of the press, and the public's right to hold governments and
government officials accountable. We hope the government, civil society,
activists, NGOs and media continue a dialogue to seek common ground on
this critical issue."



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