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Secrecy bill ‘insulting to all S.Africans’: Tutu

Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu urged lawmakers Tuesday to reject a new state secrets bill which he said was an insult to South Africans with measures that could be used to cover up corruption.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is set to muscle the bill through parliament, imposing 25-year jail terms for people found with classified documents — despite an outcry that it will muzzle investigative journalism.

“The Protection of State Information is not only flawed, it is insulting to all South Africans to be asked to stomach legislation that could be used to outlaw whistle-blowing and investigative journalism,” said Tutu.

“This is not to suggest that those presently holding the reins of power intend to use the legislation to muzzle anyone or to cover anything up.

“But, equally, there are presently a sufficient number of investigations (to the credit of government) into alleged corruption by members of this and previous governments to warrant treading with extra care.”

The bill would outlaw the release of classified documents even if the information could benefit the public, making the “state answerable only to the State”, he said.

“I appeal to our MPs: Please hear the disquiet this proposed piece of legislation has caused,” Tutu said, calling on lawmakers to listen to widespread warnings on the bill.

South Africa’s press regularly uncovers allegations of graft that reach to the highest level of government and fear the bill will stifle their work.

Several protests have been planned for Tuesday with the National Press Club calling on people to wear black to show their opposition. They have dubbed the day “Black Tuesday” in a nod to a 1977 apartheid press crackdown.