Cosatu warns against attempt to gag whistleblowersBy XINHUA | Wednesday, May 2 2012 at 13:52
The South African Congress of Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Tuesday warned against any attempt to silence "whistleblowers" who are seen as vanguards in fighting corruption.
One of Cosatu's concerns was that whistleblowers would be silenced by legislation once a controversial information bill was passed in its present form, the trade federation said in a statement marking the International Labor Day.
Cosatu calls for the information bill to be amended so as to give better protection for "whistleblowers" who want to expose corruption, union spokesperson Patrick Craven said in the statement.
"The bill must be amended so that exposing information about corruption, crime, misuse of public money or incompetence, in the public interest, can never be a criminal offence," said Craven.
It would be the whistleblowers and not "the corrupt offenders" who land up in court with the threat of prison for revealing secret information, said the statement.
Under the bill, anyone who discloses classified information will be punished with prison sentences ranging from five to 25 years, depending on the level of classification and whether espionage is involved.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has repeatedly pledged that the info bill is not intended to cover up government wrongdoing or silence the media but rather to encourage free flow of information in line with the constitution.
But media organisations and civil rights groups have vowed to launch a Constitutional Court challenge to the information bill if the legislation was passed in its present form.
They want to include a clause that would protect disclosure of classified information if a court deemed it to be in society's best interest. But the demand has been rejected by the ANC.
The National Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of the bill in November last year despite mounting opposition to the measure.
The bill still has to be approved by the National Council of Provinces this year before it is signed into law by President Jacob Zuma.
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