'National legislature is not The Jerry Springer Show'

Parliament’s lawyer said the house had the right to take reasonable measures to regulate access.

FILE: Members of the media gathered in their numbers, patiently waiting for President Zuma to arrive ahead of his State of the Nation Address on 12 February 2015. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Parliament's lawyer has told the Western Cape High Court that the national legislature is not 'The Jerry Springer Show'.

He was defending Parliament's policy of not broadcasting incidents of grave disorder in the National Assembly Chamber in order to protect the dignity of the house.

Primedia Broadcasting and several organisations want the so called "disorder clause" in the policy declared unconstitutional.

The applicants launched their legal challenge after the extraordinary events that took place during the president's State of the Nation Address (SONA) in February.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Members of Parliament (MPs) were forcibly removed from the house by police in plain clothes, but cameras remained fixed on the presiding officers.

Only shaky, illegally recorded cell phone footage of the scuffles showed what actually happened.

The applicants' lawyer Steven Budlender argued members of the public have the right to see how their MPs behave because it allows them to make informed decisions at the polls.

But Parliament's lawyer, Jeremy Gauntlett questioned the applicants "insatiable appetite for reality television".

He said Parliament has the right to take reasonable measures to regulate access.

But it's now up to the court to decide whether the restrictions are reasonable or if the presiding officers have gone too far.