'Signal jamming is to stop MPs behaving badly'

08 September 2016 - 09:11 By KATHARINE CHILD

Parliament engaged in "censorship" when its live feed stopped showing violent scuffles between the EFF and police at last year's State of the Nation address, instead focusing on Speaker Baleka Mbete's face.Primedia, the SA National Editors' Forum, NGOs Right to Know and the Open Democracy Centre asked the Supreme Court of Appeal yesterday to declare parliamentary rules that stop incidents of "grave disorder" being broadcast live "unconstitutional". Their advocate, Steven Budlender SC, said parliament's broadcasting policy infringed on the right of the public to see what happens there.In National Assembly sittings the media rely on the single feed provided by parliament.Jeremy Gauntlett SC, acting for parliament and the speaker, argued that the rule stopping the live feed of disorderly conduct did not stop people learning about the business of parliament as journalists were not ejected and could report on whatever had not been shown live.He said parliament's rules were reasonable and were made to "protect the dignity of parliament and limit [MPs'] bad behaviour".The media and NGOs asked that the specific incident of signal jamming, that took place in parliament last year be declared unlawful.State Security Agency advocate Francois van Zyl said the disruption was a mistake as the jammer was supposed to be used when dignitaries arrived to detect and stop drones that could have posed a security threat. He could not guarantee a signal jammer would not be used again.Judges hearing the case said this meant they needed to make a ruling on its use.

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