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South Africa passes secrecy bill

Thursday - 4/25/2013, 12:03pm  ET

A demonstrator protests outside the ruling African National Congress headquarters in Johannesburg, Thursday, April 25, 2013 against the Protection of State Information Bill which has been passed by Parliament. The secrecy bill will now be sent to president Jacob Zuma to sign into law. Opponents say that the proposed law remained unconstitutional and various groups have vowed to challenge the bill. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South Africa's parliament has passed a bill designed to protect state secrets despite the concerns of some activists who fear it could undermine the country's young democracy.

Lawmakers in Cape Town passed the bill by a 189-74 vote, with one abstention, on Thursday. The bill now goes to President Jacob Zuma to be signed into law.

The bill provides for prison terms for those who disseminate classified information as well as those convicted of espionage. The government describes the measure as a balance between openness and national security.

Opponents worry that the bill could make whistleblowers, activists and journalists more vulnerable to prosecution if they expose cases of official corruption.

The bill was revised after a public outcry over its provisions several years ago.

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