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Parly signal jamming case in High Court

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Two media houses and several organisations will bring an application in the High Court in Cape Town on Tuesday to prevent Parliament from jamming cellphone signals in future.

“Primedia Broadcasting, together with Media24, the South African National Editors Forum [Sanef], Right to Know and the Open Democracy Advice Centre, will be asking the Speaker of Parliament to undertake that in the future there will not be any scrambling of telecommunication signals in the parliamentary chamber,” Primedia said on Monday.

The Speaker would be asked to ensure the live audio and video feed captured the totality of events and was given to the media.

Thursday night’s eviction of Economic Freedom Fighters’ MPs from the National Assembly before the state-of-the-nation address was not broadcast. Instead the camera focused on Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise.

Before this happened journalists and some MPs protested against cellphone signals being blocked in the House.

Around 25 journalists protested in the press gallery of the National Assembly because they could not file their stories.

“Bring back the signal, bring back the signal,” they chanted, waving their cellphones at a black box which they believed was a jamming device.

Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters MPs joined in the chanting from the seats below, holding up their cellphones.

DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen, supported by the EFF and Freedom Front Plus, rose on a “rule of order” to submit that the jamming violated the Constitution.

The matter was resolved after Mbete said she would make sure the Secretary of Parliament looked into it.

“Our ability to work, freely and fairly, in a functional democracy is of paramount importance and should never be taken for granted,” Eyewitness News editor-in-chief Katy Katopodis said. SAPA

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