UN scrutinises Info Bill

Deputy Justice Minister assured the UN that the Secrecy Bill will not muzzle the media.

Deputy Justice Minister assures the UN the Secrecy Bill will not muzzle the media.

JOHANNESBURG - Some United Nations (UN) member states have raised concerns over the controversial Protection of State Information Bill (POIB).

This was done during a report back at the United Nations' Universal Peer Review Mechanism.

In May, South Africa's report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva was well received.

Several recommendations were made on issues including the country's efforts to curb racism and xenophobia.

Questions were asked about the so-called 'Secrecy Bill' and its effect on media freedom.

Officials questioned whether the proposed legislation complies with international human rights law.

Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel assured the UN that the purpose of the legislation was not to muzzle the press.

He said there was public interest when the matter went before the National Council of Provinces.

An ad-hoc committee studying the bill did make amendments to the bill, but officials did not include a public interest defence clause to protect journalists and whistleblowers.

In November, the contentious bill was passed in Parliament despite a public outcry from media and various other groups.