The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) are urgently seeking a court order preventing any future attempts of interference with media coverage in Parliament. This comes after the disruption of cellphone signal in the National Assembly and the edited television coverage of proceedings during Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address.
Jamming of cellphone signal
702’s Udo Carlese spoke to Katy Katopodis, Secretary General of SANEF, on the status of the court action. Katapodis shared her first-hand account of the signal disruption and said that it is unacceptable to believe that it was a technical glitch.
We strongly condemn [the use of] this jamming device… it contravenes the Electronic Communications Act, which is what makes it illegal, not to mention, unethical.
Katapodis said that SANEF has joined forces with media houses such as Primedia Broadcasting and Media24 as well as initiatives including Open Society and the Right2Know campaign; and have written to the Speaker of Parliament to lobby for the transparent coverage of proceedings in the future.
Interference with broadcast feed
Both audio and visual coverage in the chambers was allegedly interfered with by Parliamentary officials. According to Mpumelelo Mkhabela, the Chairperson of SANEF, officials were able to censor what the public heard and saw in the House because of an existing policy in Parliament that allows its television services to divert from any chaos in the chambers, and limit the camera footage to the Speaker or the emblem of Parliament.
Mkhabela joined Cape Talk’s Kieno Kammies to explain. He said the Speaker and her officials should not be allowed to interfere with the broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings.
That is not the role of presiding officers, officials of Parliament or politicians, that is the role of editors.
Mkhabela wants the courts to rule that the policy is unconstitutional on the basis that it infringes Parliament’s values of transparency, accountability and openness as well as provisions of media freedom. He says the rules of Parliament have not evolved fast enough.
We need provision that will ensure that press freedom is realized in the House.
SANEF is finalizing the legal paperwork with their lawyers and will file for court orders in the course of the week.
Listen to Katy Katapodis update Udo Carlese on SANEF's plans to take legal action:
Listen to Mpumelelo Mkhabela unpack the Constitutional challenges that confront Parliament and the media with Kieno Kammies:
This article first appeared on 702 : SANEF to take court action for media freedom violations in Parly