The DA has asked Icasa to probe the signal jamming in the National Assembly ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s the state-of-the-nation address on Thursday.
The party said it was an orchestrated strategy to prevent the public from following proceedings and the media from reporting on them, DA MP Gavin Davis said in a statement on Sunday.
“The jamming of the cellular signal on Thursday was an unprecedented contravention of media freedom,” said Davis.
“All indications are that the jamming of the signal was illegal.”
He referred to a report in a Sunday newspaper which stated that the SABC was instructed not to show visuals of the DA’s walk-out or forceful removal of the Economic Freedom Fighters MPs.
The public broadcaster allegedly prevented independent commentators from giving on-air analysis while the satellite lines of independent broadcaster eNCA were allegedly jammed.
This was a direct contravention of a notice by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) in 2002, in which it stated that the scrambling of cellphone signals was prohibited, Davis said.
He claimed the presidency had denied knowledge of who was behind the signal jam.
“Several sources, however, claim that the signal was restored on the instruction of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa,” said Davis.
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete said Parliament would probe the matter.
Davis, however called for an independent probe. He said Icasa was obliged, in terms of section 30(4) of the Electronic Communications Act, to “investigate and resolve all instances of harmful interference to licensed services that are reported to it”.
“It is therefore incumbent on Icasa to find out who jammed the signal, for what purpose and under whose orders.”
The Congress of the People said the signal jamming was a threat to freedom of speech.
“It was clear that the ANC had learned from the apartheid government some of their old tricks and tactics,” said spokesman Dennis Bloem.
He said one female journalist screamed hysterically as she was manhandled by security forces who tried to prevent her from doing her work.
“[That] reminds us of those dark days where journalists were locked up, beaten up and even lost their lives for reporting to the world what is happening in our country. Sadly, the ANC government wants to take us back,” Bloem said.
He called on the public to speak out against such incidents.