The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal, ordering the censoring of the broadcast of commotion in Parliament as unconstitutional. Sanef Executive Director, Mathatha Tsedu, said the decision was a victory for openness and transparency.
The matter followed the signal jamming of cell phones at the opening of Parliament in February 2015 and the failure of the Parliamentary broadcast feed to reflect the commotion that ensued later. The television feed provided by Parliament to national broadcasters only showed the face of the Speaker during the disorder. Parliament said this was in line with its rules which stated that unruly behaviour should not be shown.
Tsedu said Sanef raised objections to these rules even before the state of the nation address but their protests fell on deaf ears. Following the commotion in Parliament, an urgent court application was lodged in Cape Town seeking firstly that the jamming of the cell phone signal is declared unlawful and unconstitutional; and secondly that the rules of Parliament that prohibited the full broadcast of proceedings, including commotions, was a violation of the right of the public to be fully informed of proceedings in the House.
Tsedu said the SCA’s ruling means 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. He said the ruling also means the state security apparatus can no longer jam cellular signals at will in Parliament.
Sanef said that the ability of the media to fully inform the public on issues of public interest was enhanced by the court’s ruling. – email@example.com
Statement – André Grobler/Bloemfontein Courant