Secrecy vs democracy — the petition is exploding!

An attempt to use social media resistance to activate grass roots democracy in South Africa

Our petition is exploding! Over 21,000 signers in 24 hours! Let’s get to 50,000 and stop the bill. Send this on to everyone

Dear Friends across South Africa,

Right now a Parliamentary Committee is steamrolling through an unconstitutional secrecy bill that would undermine the very pillars of democracy — freedom of expression, free media and accountable government. But growing public pressure is pushing back and MPs are hesitating. Let’s build a nationwide petition of opposition and stop the bill. Sign now!

Sign the petition!

Right now a Parliamentary Committee is steamrolling through an unconstitutional secrecy bill that could take South Africa back to the dark days of impunity — allowing government institutions to operate without public scrutiny, and stopping the media from exposing corruption, and abuse of power.

But public pressure is pushing back! Last week, after hundreds of media outlets and civic organisations had submitted amendments to Parliament, COSATU, Fedusa and the former Minister for Intelligence Services, Ronnie Kasrils condemned the bill, and on Friday ruling party MPs were forced to prolong the Parliamentary debate. But security sector interests are at stake, and to ensure this current bill is stopped will require an avalanche of public opposition.

The bill would undermine the Constitution and destroy key pillars of a vibrant democracy — free media, open government and an informed public. Let’s tell the political leadership that the people of South Africa vehemently oppose this Bill. Sign now, then forward this to everyone – when it reaches 50,000 signers it will be delivered to Parliament, the Executive and key international allies:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/south_africa_stop_the_secrecy_bill/?vl

Right now ruling party MPs are forcing the Committee to vote clause by clause on a secrecy bill that entirely counters the African and emerging economies movement towards more open government. The Bill would empower officials in nearly every state body to classify any document as secret on the basis of a vague definition of ‘national security’. Poor communities could be denied requests of information about service delivery, and if abused, a local clinic, municipal office or national ministry could use the bill to cover up corruption or misuse of public resources. The Bill would also lock up anyone who possess or publishes anything that is classified for a minimum of 15 years, even if that information is clearly in the public interest, deterring investigative journalists, and whistle-blowers from exposing official crime and corruption.

The Protection of Information Act of 1982 needs to be replaced, but there is a formula that would not flout citizens’ constitutional rights and protect secrets. A democratic and strong law would: have an independent panel appointed by Parliament to determine what secrets had a bearing on national security; only apply to institutions in the security sector; endorse public scrutiny of the intelligence agencies; and would ensure that legitimate whistleblowers that disclose secrets in the public interest are always protected..

Last year we worked with citizens and organizations across the country to raise the alarm and together we halted the bill’s progress. And last week a surge of public criticism pushed ruling party MPs to take their foot off the accelerator. People power works! Basic freedoms and democratic rights are on the line and we have no time to lose. Let’s build a monumental movement to oppose this regressive bill. Sign the urgent petition and forward this message to everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/south_africa_stop_the_secrecy_bill/?vl

South Africa’s Constitution is held up around the world as a model foundation for democracy. Let’s stand together now to protect it, and oppose those who are attempting to throw a shroud of secrecy over government and use this bill to protect power and privilege.

With hope,

Alice, Sam, Benjamin, Pascal and the rest of the Avaaz team

SOURCES

Call for info bill overhaul:
http://www.iol.co.za/business/business-news/call-for-info-bill-overhaul-1.1080343

Cosatu vows to challenge a railroaded Info Bill in court:
http://mg.co.za/article/2011-05-31-cosatu-vows-to-challenge-a-railroaded-info-bill-in-court

Kasrils warns ANC on steamrolling secrecy bill:
http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/article1097447.ece/Kasrils-warns-ANC-on-steamrolling-secrecy-bill

S.Africa secrecy laws could freeze out investors and media:
http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE7510KP20110602?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=

ANC calls for delay on info bill:
http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/ANC-calls-for-delay-on-info-bill-20110603

Protection of Information Bill:
http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=118894

For more information from the Right2Know campaign to stop the Protection of Information Bill:
http://www.r2k.org.za/home


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 that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decision-making. (“Avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in many languages.) Avaaz members live in every nation of the world; our team is spread across 13 countries on 4 continents and operates in 14 languages. Learn about some of Avaaz’s biggest campaigns here, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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About Urban Choreography

Landscape Architect specializing in the design and project management of Commercial, Leisure & Urban Landscape Environments Currently researching for a PhD on the value and contribution of urban public space to the environmental resilience and liveability of cities.
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