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SCA: Signal jamming in Parliament was unlawful

The case was brought by Primedia Broadcasting and Sanef against the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Screengrab from the 'bring back the signal' chant by the media in Parliament during State of the Nation Address 2015. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has this morning ruled that the signal jamming during last year's State of the Nation Address in Parliament was unconstitutional and unlawful.

The case was brought by Primedia Broadcasting and the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) against the Speaker of the National Assembly and others.

All cellphone signals were jammed at the opening of Parliament in 2015, preventing journalists from broadcasting and tweeting the events which unfolded in the House, which saw a clash between the EFF and Parliament's private security.

The television feed was also cut.

WATCH: Ahead of the 2015 Sona, MPs demanded that cellphone signal be restored.

This morning the SCA ruled that Parliament's broadcasting policy and rules are declared unconstitutional because they violate the right to an open Parliament.

It also found that the use of the jamming device was unlawful.

Media lawyer Dario Milo says the judgment is important for media freedom and the openness of Parliament.

"It protects the public's right to see and hear what happens in Parliament as it happens, both because the court confirmed that the jamming, in the manner in which it occurred without the authority of Parliament, was unlawful. And secondly because the court says that it was an unjustifiable restriction.

Eyewitness News editor in chief and Sanef deputy chairperson Katy Katopodis says this judgment is a hugely significant victory for media freedom and the right of journalists to do their jobs unhindered.

"It was a unanimous judgment and is also a victory for our hard-fought democracy and for our country's Constitution. This ruling should galvanise all journalists to continue fighting for the rights of our profession, as entrenched in the Constitution."

Primedia CEO Roger Jardine says the company pursued this matter all the way to the SCA because of the dangerous legal precedent that would have been set if the ruling of the Cape High court was allowed to go unchallenged.

"At the heart of this matter is the access of citizens to our public institutions. I am satisfied that the SCA has once again confirmed that we live in a constitutional democracy and not in a security state. This ruling also demonstrates that a strong judiciary and independent media are key pillars of a vibrant and healthy democracy."

To view the full judgment click here.

To read the full state from Primedia click here.

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