Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Secrecy in South Africa

Two months ago, South Africa became a founding member of the Open Government Partnership, a world body aimed at promoting transparency, accountability and participation on government. Today, after one too many stories linking top government officials to corruption, the lower house of their Parliament passed a secrecy law, allowing the government to declare any information secret in the "national interest" and imposing a 25-year jail term for possession or publication, with no public interest defence. The net result: journalists and whistleblowers will be treated like spies, and corruption will continue unabated.

The bill still has to pass the upper house, and will almost certainly be challenged in the constitutional court. But this is still a tremendous backwards step for South Africa, and one which shows that its government is intent on lining its own pockets and protecting its own rather than eliminating corruption.