Sona signal jamming: Sanef, media houses appeal on the cards

2015-08-21 13:40
Journalists attending the State of the Nation address hold their phones in the air to protest against the jammed signal in the House. (Lerato Maduna, City Press)

Journalists attending the State of the Nation address hold their phones in the air to protest against the jammed signal in the House. (Lerato Maduna, City Press)

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The South African National Editors’ Forum and media houses have been granted leave to appeal in their case against Parliament’s policy on broadcasting and the use of a signal jammer during this year’s state of the nation address. 

Dario Milo, who represented the applicants, said he was very pleased about the Western Cape High Court’s decision. 

“It shows that the judges have accepted there are reasonable prospects [that a different court could come to a different conclusion].” 

Parliament and the minister of state security, both respondents in the case, did not oppose the application for leave to appeal. 

During this year’s state of the nation address, events when Economic Freedom Fighters members of Parliament were violently thrown out of the house were not broadcast on TV because the parliamentary video camera, as determined by the parliamentary broadcasting policy, focused on the speaker’s face. 

A signal jammer, activated by the department of state security supposedly for security reasons, also initially made it impossible for the media to report from the National Assembly because all cellphone and internet signals had been blocked. 

Following these events Sanef, Media24 (which owns City Press), the Right2Know campaign, media house Primedia and the Open Democracy Advice Centre asked the court to declare parts of Parliament’s broadcasting policy unconstitutional. The media also wanted the court to declare the use of a signal blocker during the state of the nation address illegal. 

The court ruled in May that Parliament may restrict media access to its proceedings and that it had not acted illegally by using the signal blocker. 

However, the ruling was not unanimous. Judge Kate Savage differed from judges Daniel Dlodlo and Robert Henney and delivered a judgment that deviated strongly from the court’s ruling. 

Savage found that parts of the Parliament’s broadcasting policy, the way the state of the nation was broadcast and the use of a signal jammer were unconstitutional and illegal.

 
She said that “openness and accountability” was necessary for members of the public to hold members of Parliament accountable.

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