‘Signal jamming will never happen again’

2015-02-17 20:12

The South African National Editors Forum together with Primedia, Right2know, Media24 and Open Democracy Advice Centre this morning approached the Cape High Court to seek an order that Parliament undertakes that no jamming of mobile signal shall ever happen.

This comes after the cellphone signal was jammed on Thursday during the state of the nation address, prompting journalists and some members of opposition parties to protest against the unconstitutional act. The signal was later restored although there was no reasonable explanation for the jamming in the first place.

Today, Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete has admitted to having known of a signal-blocking device, but said it had been installed for the protection of President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, adding that the media wasn't targetted in any way.

“We became aware that there was a plan for certain equipment to be deployed. It is an item we received as a report along with many other reports, without necessarily knowing the detail, in particular the effects, because it was an item dealing with what measures had to be taken for the protection, in particular, of the head of state and the deputy president,” she said.

“I repeat, the media was not a target, was not mentioned, was never on anybody’s mind. [But] of course what happened, happened.”

Sanef also sought an order that Parliament should agree to provide wide angle shots of video coverage of proceedings especially when there was trouble in the House. Failing that, Sanef sought permission for broadcasters to bring their own equipment and cover the proceedings themselves.

An attempt to reach agreement out of court failed and the matter was then heard by Judge Elize Steyn. She recorded Parliament's undertaking that the signal jamming should never have happened and it will ensure that it never happens again.

Regarding the relief sought on the filming of disruptions, the judge gave Parliament until Monday next week to file affidavits. Parliament had wanted a month to prepare affidavits. The matter will be argued on February 25.

On the application for the use of own cameras and setting aside the present Parliamentary policy that disallows this, the judge ruled that this would be heard on an expedited basis subject to the judge president authorising the dates.

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