Secrecy Bill Hearings Resume: national security emphasised

Hearings on the Secrecy Bill continued in the National Council of Provinces today, with Dennis Dlomo, the Acting Director of the State Security Agency, presenting submissions. An interesting comment to arise has been the staunch resistance of the Agency to take out the Promotion of Access to Information Act override as protection is allegedly more important than access (as per quotes coming from the session currently).

This speaks more broadly to a more significant debate Рthe prioritisation of national security. This is of course a debate that has raged worlwide; but that is picking up steam in South Africa with the restructuring of the Security Services and the proliferation of laws arising from the Department of Security supposedly for this purpose. These discussions have seen some consideration in the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information which have not been significantly referenced by government in the debate, despite being referenced by some non-governmental organisations in their submissions. These principles, like our Constitution, also prioritise access to information with national security standing as a justification for a restriction of that right if legitimate and necessary (similarly to our section 36 limitations analysis).
For an interesting look at national security and access to information in South Africa currently you can see a paper written by our host, Jonathan Klaaren, You can view this here: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/18c3p5kd#page-2.

Hopefully there will be an opportunity to discuss these issues at PILG 2012 – either through a submission for a panel, or in the corridors. Note we are currently investigating tools to facilitate networking at PILG this year!

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