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South Africa Passes Secrecy Bill, Makes Whistleblowing a Dangerous Act 118

Posted by timothy
from the let-it-not-be-said-that dept.
New submitter Hermanas writes with the story that South Africa's parliament has passed a Protection of Information Bill which could land whistle blowers and journalists who print classified information in jail for up to 25 years. From the Telegraph: "On the morning of the vote, a joint editorial in the country's largest newspapers heralded [a South African] 'day of reckoning for democracy.' 'The spreading culture of self-enrichment, either corrupt, or merely inappropriate, makes scrutiny fuelled by whistle blowers who have the public interest at heart more essential than ever since 1994,' the front page editorial said. As MPs voted on the bill in Cape Town's parliament, protesters dressed all in black gathered at the gates of the historic building where they were addressed by editors and freedom of information activists."
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South Africa Passes Secrecy Bill, Makes Whistleblowing a Dangerous Act

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  • Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:38PM (#38138048)
    I would have expected this here in the U.S. or China, not South Africa. We're having a bad influence on the rest of the world, I think...
    • Look for it soon in your country too.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mr1911 (1942298) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:16PM (#38138744)
      Expect an even worse version to be submitted in the US in the near future. It will almost certainly be presented as a way to 1) save the children, or 2) protect us from terrorists.
    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:16PM (#38138758)

      The 1% are in power and want to stay that way. The truth is not their friend.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Aryden (1872756) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:17PM (#38138762)
      In reality, this already exists in the US. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Executive_Order_13526 [wikisource.org] mandates that information cannot be classified merely for the sake stopping embarrassment. Also provides provisions for declassification of information and that publishing leaked information does not declassify it and is therefor punishable by law.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        I think it is incorrect to say publishing leaked information is punished in the US. For example, nobody is prosecuting NY Times for reprinting excerpts of wikileaks. Whether this is due to a law or a judicial precedent, I don't know.
        • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @04:55PM (#38140808)

          The NYT didn't leak the stories, Bradley Manning did. Hence, Bradley Manning is in jail and not the NYT.

          This isn't difficult to understand.

          • by arkenian (1560563)
            Its not. However from the sounds of the South Africa law, the NYT would ALSO be in trouble there. Actually the US is very liberal when it comes to the publication of classified data compared to most countries, even in the western world. (as a friend of mine used to joke, around the time the UK was updating its Official Secrets Act, the US was updating FOIA)
            • by elp (45629)

              That's exactly what the SA law would do. The paper is REQUIRED to turn over all documents to the nearest police station and give the name of the whistle blower or editor would face jail time. Not sure of the exact penalties, I think its 5 years for not turning over the docs and 25 years for publishing the information.

        • there is a grand jury convening in boston area RIGH TNOW. they are right now convening to hear Conspiracy charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 ( 18 USC 793(g) ) . there are three people who are there ONLY because they published information like the state department dumps, the afghan war incident reports, etc.

          glenn greenwald has written about it.

        • by RoLi (141856)

          The New York Times is the most system-friendly newspaper in the US. When they print anything you can be sure that it is not contrary to the money-interests.

          And there was nothing new in the wikileaks documents.

      • Sadly, who enforces that if its unjustly classified? The judges that were appointed by the branch of government who made it classified?

        One would hope there would be truly independent judges who would fly in the face of such activity, but I'm quite sure in 25 years we'll find out that LOTS of information was classified as 'national security' because if it got out it would make Bush, and now Obama, simply look bad and that would hurt our prestige in the world. Hence that's a security threat. And the ju
    • by stanlyb (1839382)
      I wish i had mod points (like "insightful").
    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chicago_scott (458445) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:28PM (#38138964) Journal

      You didn't expect something like this in a country that had apartheid until 1990 and imprisoned people who spoke out in favor or equal rights? Really?

      • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:42PM (#38139220) Journal
        The naive-optimist theory of human nature is that a good, hard, dose of oppression and brutality makes people see the evil of it.

        In a few, noble, cases(e.g. Mr. Mandela), it does. In less uplifting characters(e.g. his former wife, it renders them brutal: see "necklacing; support of"). In the case of cynical opportunists(like much of the present ANC leadership) it merely awakens them to an understanding of how terribly convenient power can be...

        (While the almost complete failure of this naive-optimist theory has applied time and again to post-colonial African governance, it is by no means exclusive to the continent. My very own New England was founded by religious refugees from Old England who sought a new land where, safe from their persecutors, they could safely persecute the shit out of people they didn't like... It is very lucky indeed that the foundation of the present day US occurred well after the initial round of assholes had died down a touch.)
        • Mandela.. Noble.. your joking right.. Maybe later in life he ended up that way, but it does not excuse what he and his cohorts did prior to his imprisonment. If you look at his past in today's context, he would be labeled a terrorist, and rightly so.

          I will concede that he did many great things later in life, but his history remains, and it is not a pretty one.

          • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @03:42PM (#38140000)

            If you look at his past in today's context, he would be labeled a terrorist, and rightly so.

            He was labelled a terrorist back then. In fact, up until 2008, Mandela needed special waivers to travel to the US from the Secretary of State as a result of it.

            That said, for his part, he always did try to prevent people from getting hurt. He was going after buildings symbolic to the Apartheid government. The rest of his group didn't always adhere to that, and they got pretty violent, but it's hard to control people who have been oppressed for so long.

            People say that it's difficult to differentiate a terrorist from a freedom fighter. Here's my attempt: if you actually lay down arms and move towards reconciliation once you've ended the oppression, instead of trying to become the oppressor, then you're a freedom fighter. That's what Mandela did, and I have to call that noble, from the start. Because fighting for your freedom is a noble thing to do.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        uhm the regime changed, the irony is the ones backing the bill are those who are still flying the ANC flag and have their whole identity invested in the so called "struggle". Hopefully 50 years from now young black "revolutionaries" will not still be blaming everything on apartheid. It's been over 25 years, surely all the shortcomings of the last 10 years at least can no longer be attributed to the previous regime? we have come a long way, but as long as the government squanders billions on corrupt deals an

        • by gmhowell (26755)

          You're fooling yourself. There are plenty of blacks who blame their current plight in the US on slavery that ended 150 years ago.

          • Or, y'know, discriminatory laws that were around less than forty years ago and prejudicial attitudes that are still very much alive today. Who's fooling who?

            Virg
            • by RoLi (141856)

              You are fooling yourself.

              The "discriminatory laws" don't seem to have any influence - or are blacks in L.A. (where there was never slavery and never discriminatory laws) any better off than blacks in Alabama?

              Actually the blacks in L.A. are in the process of being ethnically cleansed by Latinos which is much worse than having a grandfather who had to sit in the back of the bus.

      • Except that the people that were oppressed in apartheid are now running the country and making the laws. I guess the Golden Rule is still valid.
        • by gmhowell (26755)

          Except that the people that were oppressed in apartheid are now running the country and making the laws. I guess the Golden Rule is still valid.

          Which one? "Whoever is in charge will rain a golden shower upon everyone else"?

      • The ANC - many of whom were imprisoned for fighting against Apartheid and speaking out in favor of equal rights - they're the ones in power now, and they're the ones responsible for passing this law. So yes, it is surprising. I'm not sure what ideological connection you're drawing here - the only thing the ANC has in common with the old Apartheid government is that they're both subject to human weaknesses like political corruption.

        Saying "oh of course South Africa doesn't respect human rights, just look at

      • by RoLi (141856)

        Actually only people who planted bombs, robbed banks or murdered people were imprisioned. You know, people like Nelson Mandela.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Tailhook (98486) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @03:21PM (#38139718)

      I would have expected ... I think...

      Here is a whistleblower story [google.com] you won't find on Slashdot because it isn't compatible with your preferred narrative. If you continue to discover large differences between reality and your training as a malcontent you should reconsider the propaganda you indulge.

      • Funny. I did find it on slashdot. Mind telling me what sacred cows it apparently slaughters? Looks like a whistleblower who embarrassed a previous government is now getting off the hook due to the opposition being in power.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @03:25PM (#38139770)

      I would have expected this here in the U.S. or China, not South Africa.

      Why would you not expect this in South Africa? Are black-majority governments inherently more honest than those dominated by other races?

      • by RoLi (141856)

        You don't understand the religion of political correctness.

        Rule 1: All races are equal

        Rule 2: Whites and only Whites are evil, bad and must be eliminated

        That's what Orwell called doublethink.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well.. getting a sentence is at least something more than being locked up indefinitely.

      mandela wouldn't have had right to vote in usa anyways.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      People is so mislead about the situation in South Africa! we all are made to live in some kind of "Happy Mandela Day commercial" by the international media, but truth is that the same party has been in power from 20 years, they appoint public health ministers declaring that AIDS can be cured with garlic and lemon, and the president is not different from most of his African colleagues in terms of corruption and lack of ethics any kind: Zuma was accused of raping a woman and aquitted, it turns out that the wo

    • by md65536 (670240)

      Well in the US freedom of the press is protected as part of free speech.
      Also, such a law would be unnecessary in the US because people who say the wrong thing are rapists and can be put in jail forever for that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You obviously don't have a clue what's happening in South Africa.

      Over 3,000 white farmers (mostly elderly men and women) brutally murdered by blacks - normally tortured to death in the most horrific ways imaginable.

      A black majority government, which is, of course, totally corrupt.

      And all because of people like you, who can't be bothered to investigate things for yourself, and instead choose to believe whatever the media tells you.

    • by ikeman32 (1333971)
      Such a law would be quickly struck down as unconstitutional. I would expect the ACLU to back the fight if such a law is made in the US, freedom of the press and all. But the source of the leak is fair game.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Within 10 years the united states will do the same.

    bet.

  • Nukes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:22PM (#38138856)

    Now I understand COMPLETELY, the decision by the then-white-minority government in South Africa, to relinquish their nuclear weapons and put their nuclear programme under international safeguards.

    And this does not make Jacob ('Bring Me My Machine Gun') Zuma and his cronies look too good.

    • Re:Nukes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:35PM (#38139106)

      > And this does not make Jacob ('Bring Me My Machine Gun') Zuma and his cronies look too good.

      True, but when you have the machine gun (or/and all the money) you don't care what anyone thinks of you.

    • Re:Nukes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by beuges (613130) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:46PM (#38139268) Homepage

      Zuma was already not looking good a week ago, when his official spokesman, Mac Maharaj, laid charges against the Mail & Guardian, compelling them to redact about 70% of an article they were going to publish outlining how Maharaj lied during an in-camera hearing into corruption surrounding the infamous arms deal. Rather than defend himself, Maharaj's viewpoint is simply that the publication of in-camera evidence is against the law, so the M&G is breaking the law. Hasn't provided any sort of defence against the allegations of corruption against him.

      And this is exactly what the protesting against the POIB is about. The ANC has viciously resisted even the thought of adding a 'public interest' clause to the bill, meaning that evidence of corruption and lies, like in Zuma's spokesman's case, can be classified, and then rather than the corrupt person being held accountable, the journalists go to jail, for exposing corruption that the government is helping to hide.

      Zuma and his cronies haven't looked good for a while. If they were serious about their claims to want to fight corruption, they wouldn't be so hell-bent on passing a law that hides the evidence of that corruption. The minister of Intelligence was implicated in fraud involving travel allowances a few years back. None of the ANC MP's have been charged or even fined. He's the one that drafted the initial bill.

      My personal opinion, as a non-white who grew up in the last two decades of apartheid, is that the ANC government is worse for the people of this country than the apartheid one. At least with the Nats, you knew that if you were black, you were gonna be held back - it was government policy and they were open about it. With the ANC, they're keeping their own people back for their own selfish gains, blaming the 'legacy of apartheid' for their peoples misfortunes, when their people remain poor and uneducated purely due to the corrupt, selfish ANC government in power.

      It's a tragedy.

      • by Quila (201335) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @03:12PM (#38139606)

        Over here Obama is still blaming the disastrous results of his administration on Bush.

      • Zuma and his cronies haven't looked good for a while. >It's a tragedy.

        Onlu a while? I can not recall them ever looking good.

      • My personal opinion, as a non-white who grew up in the last two decades of apartheid, is that the ANC government is worse for the people of this country than the apartheid one. At least with the Nats, you knew that if you were black, you were gonna be held back - it was government policy and they were open about it. With the ANC, they're keeping their own people back for their own selfish gains, blaming the 'legacy of apartheid' for their peoples misfortunes, when their people remain poor and uneducated purely due to the corrupt, selfish ANC government in power.

        Maybe you can answer a question that I've had for some time now.

        I've seen claims from various people online that an average black person in today's South Africa is financially and quality-of-life-wise worse off than he was in the last decade or so of apartheid. Supposedly that is because the economy went down the drainer during ANC rule so much that, even with more even partitioning of wealth between blacks and whites, the absolute number is still lower. I've tried to track this down, and, far as I can see,

        • by beuges (613130)

          I'm not black, so I can't speak from personal experience there. I don't believe that the average black person today is financially worse-off than he was under apartheid. But as for quality of life, I do think he's not really any better off than he was overall. There are obviously a whole lot of factors at play. Since the 90's, a lot more blacks have been able to work at jobs they wouldn't have been able to in the past, so financially, there is a growing number of blacks who are benefitting. The 'reverse-apa

    • by st0nes (1120305)
      I don't understand the connection between the Freedom of Information bill and nuclear weapons; either it's a non seqitur or too subtle for me. This bill may have passed through parliament, but it will encounter a rocky road when it comes up against the inevitable constitutional challenges (Moegoeng Moegoeng notwithstanding). South Africa also has a freedom of speech clause which this law attempts to trump. In any case, if the ANC government continue to behave with the arrogance and stupidity they have be
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:23PM (#38138890)

    So please, hackers of the world, we need you to bust Zuma and the security apparatus in South Africa wide open, and publish on behalf of the people of this country, who have had their hopes dashed by a hopelessly corrupt government. Let the secrets which gave rise to this bill come to light!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Are they freakkken kidding...They want to turn SA into Zimbabwe,this ain't democracy...People lets unite and fight this shity government,ZUMA should go back to school by the way maybe his big head could be useful for once in his life...FUCK THE ANC,CORRUPT MF's,YALL R COWARDS

  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:29PM (#38138974)

    There is nothing to see here, move along..

    Welcome back to apartheid, only under black rule instead of white rule..

    This country (I am an expat) is intent on destroying itself. They have been trying to change history by renaming, or removing all monuments, good or bad, to historical figures and events.

    I'm glad I left.. as have most of my friends. SA while a beautiful country from a landscape aspect, is an absolute shithole from a people aspect, black, white, indian, makes not difference, the few good ones left should get the fuck out while the getting is good.

    • by scamper_22 (1073470) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @03:00PM (#38139436)

      Another expat... absolutely agree.

      For the record.. I am of Indian descent, and while never had it as bad as the blacks, we certainly detested apartheid.

      SA is basically a country run by ideological corruption right now. While blacks make up 80% of the population and almost everyone agrees a certain amount of transition in terms of 'affirmative' action is a good thing given history it is being done in such an impractical way.

      People are literally being handed positions of power with absolutely no qualifications. And of course this is coming down to massive corruption. It rarely goes to help the poor needy black family. The benefits tend to go to well connected black families who don't really need the help.

      Then you have the massive entitlement mentality. The biggest problem here is that 80% of the population is black. And unfortunately, a large percentage expect all the services for free. A simple example is electricity. They don't want to pay for electricity. They expect it to be subsidized by the other 20% of society. You can't run an electrical system that way. It's not like all the Indians or whites are rolling in money to subsidize it that way.

      So it's no surprise the government tries to crack down on whistle blowing. The whole country and government is based on corruption.

      It's a country doomed to run into the ground left to its own merits. There is hope though. China is heavily involved and at least keeps goods flowing... and they're relatively untainted by a colonial past in Africa.

      • by swb (14022)

        Will it get as bad as Zimbabwe? It seems to be the same kind of corruption and kleptocracy, albeit not as centralized on one man.

        I often wonder if Zimbabweans ever get nostalgic for Ian Smith or wonder what would have happened if Ian Smith had hung on in Rhodesia -- would it have just reinforced the South African government, allow apartheid to continue longer than it did, or would it have transitioned before South Africa, leading the way to a multiracial society?

        • by scamper_22 (1073470) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @03:53PM (#38140104)

          I personally don't think it will get as bad as Zimbabwe. But I'm always open to surprises :P

          One thing about Africa is your perception can change in a minute. I recall a few of the riots, where people I'd talk to everyday, suddenly turned on their neighbor and burned homes down... so take the following with a grain of salt.

          I think the problem in South Africa is less about 'hate' for white people, and more about general corruption and poverty. This is what I think saves South Africa from Zimbabwe. There is even a small effort to help the poor whites... and there are a lot of them. Despite the flight, there is still a fair number of institutional builders. The old European style institutions are still there. China is heavily involved.

          If anything, I think South Africa will just descend into crime, poverty, corruption... not unlike many of the Latin American countries have done in the past. I don't see a Zimbabwe style melt down.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I actually think that we should set up a refugee program in order to give white Africans the option of immigrating back to Europe and North America. I think that, in certain cases, one could make the argument that white people are being prosecuted in Africa and, therefore, they deserve our protection. Most of them are well educated and would definitely be welcomed here and in Europe.

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:46PM (#38139258)
    underground, there will be more anonymous leaks to places like LiveLeak or Youtube from internet cafes or any unsecured wifi hotspot, information wants to be free and it will find a way despite what governments try to do to prevent it.
    • by Rangido (924536)
      Problem with that - electricity, never mind internet access, is nowhere near ubiquitous in South Africa. Basic cellphones, maybe, but not real web browsing.
  • ble - whoever would've thunk it?!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @03:26PM (#38139792)

    and over the years I've seen a new apartheid being slowly, but meticulously built. The propaganda is rife everyday...

    Our country has mass unemployment, and those masses are uneducated. The government of this-not-so-young democracy has not drastically changed this landscape, why not? The uneducated are the uninformed, the uninformed are easy to manipulate with never ending promises. So the uneducated are kept uneducated. Money is spent on far more pressing expenses - BILLIONS are annually spent on celebrations, extravagant cars, houses for the MP's etc. Yet people go on uneducated, hungry, homeless, with no proper sanitation or running water. Where does the money come from? Well, the majority of the taxes paid are contributed by the minority whites/indians/etc who are often told to get out of the country. The problem is they're leaving by the millions.

    As the gentlemen above said, it's intent on destroying itself, and he's quite right. In time (5, 10 years, give or take), it will implode, hopefully never as bad as Zimbabwe. The government is stealing from their very own people and now they can dust it under the carpet easier than before. And what they can't dust, I'm sure they'll "Jik" the evidence away.

    The only reason anyone can be pro the South African government, is if 1. you aren't living here, or 2. you are the South African government.

    • by spads (1095039)
      Wow. Very sad though unsurprising. It's rapidly becoming "go-time" with regards to no longer behaving like animals. The same goes for indiscriminate breeding since we have been in exponential growth for the last 600 years.

      Myself, I would prefer people had the freedom (to destroy themselves) as opposed to being incarcerated into survival. (I guess for the incarceration to be enforced amicably (which practically never happens) would be the realized ideal of socialism.) No doubt, that's rough, though,
    • by faniediv (847561)
      I'm South African as well and the situation here is heart breaking. Mandela gave us such hope for the future, a non-racial society where crime is frown at. It went bad so fast after that. We now have a law whose only reason is to legalize crime. The ANC leadership is without any doubt a bunch of big time criminals, now they are safeguarding themselves from prosecution. Racial harmony is a lost dream. Every year hundreds of whites are murdered and tortured by blacks in the must horrendous way. This is just n
  • There is nothing new her folks. In the country that I leave in, every so often, the media "breaks" a story and runs with it while it can still inflate their distribution, ratings, etc numbers. This story, like some many other stories before it, will disappear into this air!

    Getting back on the topic. I did a quick Google search (viewed first page results only) on the "Secrecy Bill" and "Information Bill". To absolutely no surprise, all the media houses that published the story had no link to the actual b
  • Making classified info public was always a big offense, in ANY country. Always. And of course was always manipulated. Boring.
  • I always thought the countries there were ass backwards, taking all the resources from their people, making them slaves in mine diamond mine camps etc...
    and now if one such person actually escapes to try and tell the proper authorities, about what goes on inside that camp, well now he faces prosecution...
    good one!.

    How about this, we go over there and take over the mines (like we took over the oil fields) and then they wont have anything left to argue about....democracy will be able to flourish uninterrupted

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. -- Niels Bohr

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