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The Tshwane Principles on National Security Cheat Sheet by

security     foundation     know     rights     national     soros

Introd­uction: National Security & Right to Know

The Tshwane Principles on National Security and the Right to Inform­ation address the question of how to ensure public access to government inform­ation without jeopar­dizing legitimate efforts to protect people from national security threats.
These Principles were drafted by 22 civil society organi­zations and academic centres, facili­tated by the Open Society Justice Initia­tive, in order to provide guidance to those engaged in drafting, revising, or implem­enting relevant laws and policies.
Based on intern­ational and national law and practices, and more than two years of consul­tation around the world with government actors, the security sector and civil society, they set out concrete guidelines on the approp­riate limits of secrecy, protec­tions for whistle blowers, the parameters of the public’s right to inform­ation about human rights violations and other issues.

The Open Society Founda­tions

Mission & Values
The Open Society Founda­tions work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose govern­ments are accoun­table and open to the partic­ipation of all people.
The Open Society Founda­tions, which began 1979, remains today committed to the global struggle for open society and responding quickly to the challenges and opport­unities of the future.
Offices & Founda­tions
The Open Society Founda­tions are a family of offices and founda­tions created by philan­thr­opist George Soros. This directory includes our offices and country and regional founda­tions located throughout the world.
George Soros, Founder / Chairman
Investor and philan­thr­opist George Soros establ­ished the Open Society Founda­tions to help countries make the transition from communism.
Chri­stopher Stone, Presid­ent*
He is an intern­ational expert on criminal justice reform and on the leadership and governance of nonpro­fits.

An Overview: Fifteen Things the Principles Say

1. The public has a right of access to government inform­ation, including inform­ation from private entities that perform public functions or receive public funds. (Principle 1)
2. It is up to the government to prove the necessity of restri­ctions on the right to inform­ation. (Principle 4)
3. Govern­ments may legiti­mately withhold inform­ation in narrowly defined areas, such as defence plans, weapons develo­pment, and the operations and sources used by intell­igence services. Also, they may withhold confid­ential inform­ation supplied by foreign govern­ments that is linked to national security matters. (Principle 9)
4. But govern­ments should never withhold inform­ation concerning violations of intern­ational human rights and humani­tarian law, including inform­ation about the circum­stances and perpet­rators of torture and crimes against humanity, and the location of secret prisons. This includes inform­ation about past abuses under previous regimes, and any inform­ation they hold regarding violations committed by their own agents or by others. (Principle 10A)
5. The public has a right to know about systems of survei­llance, and the procedures for author­izing them. (Principle 10E)
6. No government entity may be exempt from disclosure requir­eme­nts­—in­cluding security sector and intell­igence author­ities. The public also has a right to know about the existence of all security sector entities, the laws and regula­tions that govern them, and their budgets. (Princ­iples 5 and 10C)
7. Whistl­ebl­owers in the public sector should not face retali­ation if the public interest in the inform­ation disclosed outweighs the public interest in secrecy. But they should have first made a reasonable effort to address the issue through official complaint mechan­isms, provided that an effective mechanism exists. (Princ­iples 40, 41 and 43)
8. Criminal action against those who leak inform­ation should be considered only if the inform­ation poses a “real and identi­fiable risk of causing signif­icant harm” that overrides the public interest in disclo­sure. (Princ­iples 43 and 46)
9. Journa­lists and others who do not work for the government should not be prosecuted for receiving, possessing or disclosing classified inform­ation to the public, or for conspiracy or other crimes based on their seeking or accessing classified inform­ation. (Principle 47)
10. Journa­lists and others who do not work for the government should not be forced to reveal a confid­ential source or other unpubl­ished inform­ation in a leak invest­iga­tion. (Principle 48)
11. Public access to judicial processes is essential: “invoc­ation of national security may not be relied upon to undermine the fundam­ental right of the public to access judicial proces­ses.” Media and the public should be permitted to challenge any limitation on public access to judicial processes. (Principle 28)
12. Govern­ments should not be permitted to keep state secrets or other inform­ation confid­ential that prevents victims of human rights violations from seeking or obtaining a remedy for their violation. (Principle 30)
13. There should be indepe­ndent oversight bodies for the security sector, and the bodies should be able to access all inform­ation needed for effective oversight. (Princ­iples 6, 31-33)
14. Inform­ation should be classified only as long as necessary, and never indefi­nitely. Laws should govern the maximum permis­sible period of classi­fic­ation. (Principle 16)
15. There should be clear procedures for requesting declas­sif­ica­tion, with priority procedures for the declas­sif­ication of inform­ation of public interest. (Principle 17)

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