Right2Know Statement: Withdraw charges against journalists and amend the NPA Act now
It is with grave concern that we learn today of the formal criminal charges placed on M&G journalists Sam Sole, Stefaans Brummer and Nic Dawes. The three have been charged under section 28 of the NPA Act for disclosing information obtained during a NPA/Scorpions investigation (see report). Through their investigations Brummer and Sole uncovered corrupt activities linked to the office of the presidential spokesperson Mr Mac Maharaj.
Since then Mr Maharaj has chosen to press criminal charges against them through the provisions of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act. Section 41 of the NPA Act imposes a fine or a jail term of up to 15 years for disclosure of information gathered during an NPA investigation. Importantly, this particular provision of the law has no accompanying public interest defence.
No case more crucially highlights the practical justification for the demand made across civil society and progressive organisations for a full public interest defence to protect whistleblowers, researchers, community activists and journalists whose work is central to our right to know.
We therefore call on the President to demand an immediate withdrawal of charges against these journalists and to enlist an investigation into the claims made against his spokesperson Mr Maharaj. The NPA Act must be amended with immediate effect to include a public interest defence to protect journalists against prosecution for revealing what ordinary South Africans have a right to know.
Statement issued by Mark Weinberg, Right2Know Campaign, July 27 2012
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