The Library Association of South Africa and its Committee on Freedom of Access and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) stand for freedom of expression, transparency and accountability in the exchange of information and in the media. We advocate and support the provision of efficient, user-oriented and excellent library and information services that aspire to equitable access to information for all communities (literate and illiterate) in South Africa. To this end, we represent the interests of and promote the development and image of library and information workers and agencies. We respect the rights of our users, including writers and journalists, and support responsible journalism and the sharing of knowledge for the good of society.
Our Association hereby expresses our deepest concern about the Protection of Information Bill currently being considered by our Government. This ‘draconian’ Bill will have a major affect on media freedom and the democratic values of accountability, transparency and freedom of expression. We acknowledge that there are limited circumstances when State secrecy should be sanctioned for the safety of the nation, but excessive secrecy, classification and censorship of information are inherently anti-democratic and distinct reminders of pre-1994 politics. Such negative provisions in the Bill will deny citizens the right to obtain information kept by the State, will negatively affect the exercise of their fundamental human rights, and will thwart the aims of the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000. Amongst other concerns, we wish to stress the danger inherent in this Bill whereby State documents, which form part of our cultural heritage, could be strictly classified or secretly destroyed, thus permanently removing important information from public access.
Our Association therefore calls on the Government to withdraw the Bill in its entirety, as a matter of urgency. Alternatively, to comprehensively review and amend the Bill, so as to ensure freedom of expression, access to and exchange of information, as enshrined in our Constitution and in line with global media norms.
This statement was drafted by Mrs Denise Nicholson on behalf of LIASA
Denise Nicholson (Mrs)
Scholarly Communications Librarian
Scholarly Communications & Copyright Services Office
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg