The South African media houses would urgently seek a court order preventing security agencies from blocking communication signals in Parliament, the SA National Editors Forum said on Saturday.
They would also ask the courts to compel parliament to allow broadcast media to install their own cameras in the legislature.
This followed after cellphone signals were blocked in the National Assembly ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s state-of-the-nation-address on Thursday.
SAHRC concerned about jamming
The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Tripartite Alliance expressed concern on Saturday over the jamming of cellphones during the state-of-the-nation address (SONA).
SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena said his organisation did not want to enter the political arena nor apportion blame to any party, but felt compelled to express its astonishment and disappointment at the events on Thursday.
On Thursday night, around 25 journalists launched a protest in the press gallery of the National Assembly because they did not have cellphone reception to file their stories.
DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen — supported by the EFF and Freedom Front Plus — rose on a “rule of order” to submit that the jamming was “in direct violation of the… Constitution”. The signal was then restored.
Mangena said: “The disabling of access to the internet in Parliament was and remains a serious violation of the right to receive or impart information or ideas to and from members of the public, and indeed the freedom of the press and other media as encapsulated in our Constitution”.
The SAHRC welcomed the presiding officers’ commitment to having the Secretary of Parliament probe the issue, and said it would monitor this.
“…We call on all leaders of political parties in this country to convene an urgent meeting to be facilitated by an independent individual/institution, or a collective of their choice to carefully and soberly reflect on what happened during SONA, and inform the people of this country and indeed the world of what steps they will be taking to address and correct this situation and of course to prevent its recurrence going forward.”
The Alliance also condemned the signal jamming in a joint statement following a meeting of the secretariats of the African National Congress, SA Communist Party, Congress of SA Trade Unions and SA National Civic Organisation, in Cape Town on Friday.
“The secretariat condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the jamming of the signal in the National Assembly.
It regards this as a serious error of judgment that must never be repeated.
They said that some members of the media had also behaved in an unbecoming manner.
“We urge the senior management in parliament and the parliamentary press corps to meet at the soonest opportunity to review events and to re-establish the collegial relationship which is so necessary for the effective functioning of our parliamentary democracy.”
The Alliance described the disruption of the president’s speech as “regrettable”.
Three Economic Freedom Fighters MPs, including party leader Julius Malema, were told to leave the House after they persisted in trying to question President Jacob Zuma about misspending on his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, after he started delivering his state-of-the-nation address on Thursday.
Security officers were called in to escort the MPs out of the National Assembly.
The Democratic Alliance walked out shortly afterwards in protest against the security officers’ presence in the National Assembly Chamber.
The Alliance said: “At the heart of the regrettable disruptions in Parliament has been the anarchy of a six percent party, the EFF, deliberately taunting and seeking to provoke counter-measures in order to pose as a ‘victim’ of state repression.
“This behaviour is deplorable and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
“Many of the conventions and institutions of our democratic parliament, a key achievement of decades of liberation struggle, assume a degree of multi-party mutual respect and at least a modicum of shared multi-party commitment to nation-building out of the ashes of our divided past.”