Signal jamming in parly 'unconstitutional'

Signal jamming in parly 'unconstitutional'

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein on Thursday ruled that the signal jamming in Parliament during the State of the Nation Address in 2015 was unconstitutional and unlawful.

Photo: Wikimedia

Several organisations approached the SCA after signals from mobile devices were cut off by a device placed in the building by the Department of State Security.

The organisations turned to the SCA after the Western Cape High Court ruled against it when asking the court to declare parts of Parliament's broadcasting policy unconstitutional.

The SCA, however, ruled that Parliament's broadcasting policy and rules are unconstitutional, saying it violated the right to an open Parliament.

It also found that using a device to cut off mobile device signals without permission from the Speaker of the House and Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces was unlawful.

Murray Hunter from the Right 2 Know campaign said the judgement is a victory to ensure an open parliament.

"It's a really important victory against clampdowns in Parliament, which make it less transparent and a reminder that - as we've seen an increasingly heavy handed security at Parliament, an increasing risk of censorship of what's happening in our legislature - we really need to recognise that the SCA has ruled really decisively in the right for the public to know what is going on in there," he said.

The South African Editor's Forum (Sanef) also welcomed the ruling.

"What this victory for transparency means is that henceforth, if there is disorder in Parliament, the feed provided to broadcasters by Parliament should reflect the full picture of what is happening and not focus on the face of the presiding officer.

The ruling also means the state security apparatus can no longer jam signals at will in Parliament. All these mean that the ability of the media to fully inform the public on issues of public interest is enhanced and Sanef calls on Parliament to immediately implement the ruling," Sanef said.

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