This week was an interesting one for those of us who watch the press.
In the UK, the Leveson Inquiry took evidence on how invasive journalists hacked people’s phones, read people’s emails and put notes into their children’s schoolbags. The tabloids complain that their freedom of expression is on the rack, but the evidence given all week shows that they routinely ignored, undermined or rode roughshod over their targets’ freedoms.
The Leveson Inquiry will eventually protect people, both celebrity and ordinary, from excessive press invasion.
In South Africa, the government put the Protection of State Information Bill before Parliament and it was voted through by 229 votes, with two abstentions and 107 votes against. The Bill contains a clause which will allow any organ of state down to the smallest municipality to declare any document as secret and prosecute whistleblowers with jail terms of up to 25 years. There is no public interest defence. The Bill still has two more levels to go through before it becomes law, and the opposition, the media, civil society and statespeople like Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer and Mamphele Ramphele are declaring it a blow against press freedom.
The Democratic Alliance’s parliamentary whip, Lindiwe Mazibuko, made a key speech against the bill on Thursday, saying to the MPs in the house,”You’ll tell your children that you fought for freedom, but will you also tell them you helped destroy it?”
The Secrecy Bill will protect government from the press, and allow corruption to go unreported.