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Sanef fights for answers over SONA 2015

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South Africans have taken to social media to express their confusion over events at SONA 2015, as signals were jammed during what they described as the “most action packed moments within the National Assembly”. The claims of jammed signals in Parliament by media whose broadcasts were interrupted by regular audio and video cuts during proceedings, has sparked a court application, summoning an immediate investigation into the matter.

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) along with Primedia, News24 and the Right 2 Know Campaign, appeared before the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday afternoon, seeking an urgent court order to stop security agencies from blocking cell phone signals in Parliament.

“We want an undertaking from Parliament as well as an understanding on why they did what they did. And ensure that it never happens again,” Sanef General Secretary, Katy Katapodis told VOC in an interview on Drivetime.

Katapodis explained that the court application, in going forward; aims to have Parliament explain who from the state security agency gave the instruction to use a jamming device in an attempt to interfere with live broadcasts.

On behalf of various institutions in the South African media framework, the court application also sought to have Parliament assure that if feeds were disrupted, media would still be able to get a broad view of the situation inside Parliament during proceedings and not just have cameras focused on the Speaker, as was the case during SONA. While audio and cellphone signals were jammed inside the National Assembly, the camera’s focus did not allow the viewer a full perspective of the chaos as it erupted in Parliament.

“Court cases are never easy and it is very complicated. Through our court application, we were able to get an assurance from Parliament that the signal jamming was in fact wrong. It never should have happened and will never happen. We consider this a victory for media freedom in South Africa,” Katopodis explained.

In part two of the application, all media institutions behind this application, collectively proposed that they will get wide angle shots of happenings inside of Parliament along with audio until the issue is finally resolved, in an attempt to understand what lead to the jamming of signals. However, Katopodis adds that the presiding judge felt that Parliament did not have enough time to respond to the conditions accordingly and so postponed the matter until next week Thursday.

“Next week we will be back in court, fighting for a broad vision and a wide angle shot of what happened in the house. We believe it is very important and very much in the public’s interest,” Katopodis said.

VOC technicians noticed that this year, before SONA broadcasts went live, all media houses were only issued specific access to the audio and visuals through one feed whereas in previous years, media were allowed their own feed directly from Parliament. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)

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