oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - Access to information : the hallmark of democracy with reference to the protection of information bill and three historical incidents



Freedom of the press and access to information regarding the conduct of government are the hallmarks of democracy. In this article the threat to such freedom is discussed in the light of the proposed Protection of Information Bill and against the background of three historical incidents that highlight the danger inherent in impinging upon these freedoms. Two of these date from the 1970s and are known as "Watergate" and "Infogate" in the United States of America and in South Africa, respectively. The third, which highlights the encounter of citizens with an arrogant Lord Charles Somerset, dates from the early days at the Cape. In the present constitutional dispensation in the Republic of South Africa, which is based on the values underlying an open and democratic society, executive conduct which threatens the rights of citizens in this way is to be deprecated. Legislation which encroached upon such rights would not pass muster.


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