Court dismisses bid for uninterrupted Parliament feed

The high court in the Western Cape on Tuesday dismissed an urgent interim application for an order enforcing uninterrupted audio and a wide-angle shot of the parliamentary Chamber during disruptions.

Judge Owen Rogers delivered the order within a few minutes, announcing that interim relief against Parliament would not be granted and that the application for final relief would be heard on April 20.

Media24, Primedia Broadcasting, the South African National Editors’ Forum and others had argued that a suspension of one part of Parliament’s broadcasting policy was urgent because further disruption in Parliament was likely in the coming weeks.

Steven Budlender, for the applicants, argued last week that it was the constitutional right of every citizen to have an accurate representation of what occurred in the House. 

Jeremy Gauntlett, for Parliament, argued that not everything the public found interesting was in the public interest. Parliament also had a right to regulate its activities and preserve its dignity. At present, the policy gives the parliamentary broadcasting director the discretion to use occasional wide-angle shots during unparliamentary behaviour.


Sona disruptions
There is no provision for such a shot during a grave disturbance and the policy does not define what such a disturbance entails. During President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address in Parliament on February 12, the eviction of Economic Freedom Fighters MPs from the House was not broadcast. 

Instead the camera focused on Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise. Before this happened, journalists and some MPs protested against cellphone signals being blocked in the House. As a result of undertakings by Parliament, the applicants did not ask for interim relief to ensure there was no jamming of signal during sittings or meetings. 

However, they were asking for final relief regarding signal jamming.

Rogers, with Judges Elizabeth Baartman and Nape Dolamo, ruled that overall interim relief was not necessary because there was an absence of irreparable harm and the balance of convenience did not favour the applicants. 

The five minutes of restricted feed during disruptions did not weigh up to the five years that the broadcasting policy and measures had been in place. The media was not restricted from reporting on proceedings and any future disruptions in the House in the interim. 

“The applicants could have approached the court sooner; nevertheless, we are persuaded that the matter warrants an expedited hearing, being sufficiently urgent and involving constitutional issues of national importance,” the judgment reads.

Final order
In the final relief, the applicants wanted any temporary order on the audio and wide-angle shot to be made final. The applicants wanted the court to declare that the manner in which audio and visual feeds were produced on February 12 was unconstitutional and unlawful. 

They wanted the court to find invalid the section on grave disturbances and unparliamentary behaviour in Parliament’s filming and broadcasting policy. An order forcing Mbete, Modise, and Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana to investigate who was responsible for the signal jamming is also being sought. The outcome of the probe should be submitted to the court. 

In the judgment on Tuesday, the judges said it would be premature to pronounce on the constitutionality of the policy’s provisions. Each party was ordered to pay its own costs in light of the constitutional issues at hand. – Sapa

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sapaxxxx
Guest Author

Related stories

Watch it again: Ramaphosa details economic recovery plan

According to the Presidency, the plan aims to expedite, in a sustainable manner, the recovery of South Africa’s economy

Malawi’s new president is off to a good start

In 100 days of presidency, Lazarus Chakwera has been mostly well received despite a few glitches

Citizens tired of being played for a fool

The use of a South African Air Force jet by ANC officials without the minister following the required procedures is one such case — and more questions arise on examination of that case

It’s vital to get the Copyright Amendment Bill right

The currently proposed hybrid ‘fair use’ principle does not do nearly enough to protect artists, and will bankrupt them if it forces them to litigate each instance of copyright infringement

Councillors barred as ANC moves against corruption

'Stand aside' rule implemented for people facing charges as provincial integrity commission process stalls

Why we must fight to secure places for more women and young people in politics

Too often, governments talk the talk on gender equality, but fail to walk the walk
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Vitamin therapy is for drips

It may be marketed by influencers, but intravenous vitamin therapy is not necessary and probably not worth the hype, experts say

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

Murder of anti-mining activist emboldens KZN community

Mam’Ntshangase was described as a fierce critic of mining and ambassador for land rights.

Unite with Nigeria’s ‘Speak Up’ generation protesting against police brutality

Photos of citizens draped in the bloodied flag have spread around the world in the month the country should be celebrating 60 years of independence
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday