'Parliament is allowed to regulate public access'

A lawyer made the argument while defending Parliament’s filming and broadcasting policy on Friday.

FILE: Houses of Parliament, Cape Town. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape High Court has heard that the Constitution permits Parliament to take reasonable measures to regulate public access.

Parliament's lawyer Jeremy Gauntlett made the argument on Friday while defending the national legislature's policy of filming and broadcasting.

Five organisations including, Primedia Broadcasting, want an urgent interim order compelling Parliament to ensure an uninterrupted visual and audio feed of proceedings.

They also want Parliament to ensure that during "grave disorder" or "unparliamentary behaviour", a wide-angle shot of the chamber, including audio, would be broadcast.

The application comes after visuals of EFF MPs being physically removed during the president's State of the Nation Address last month were not broadcast live, instead cameras were fixed on the presiding officers.

Parliament's defence is that its broadcast policy was in place to preserve the dignity of the house and was in line with international best practice.

Gauntlett argued that Parliament had the power to regulate its own procedures.

He said the Constitution and Parliament's rules permitted this.

Lawyer for the applicants, Steven Budlender however, told a full bench of judges, that the public had the right to see what happened in Parliament, how MPs behaved and how presiding officers responded.

Budlender said having access to this information would allow citizens to make informed decisions about who they voted for.

The applicants are seeking an interim order, pending final relief, but Gauntlett has asked the judges to dismiss the application for interim relief with costs as it was misconceived and not urgent.