In what has been described as a major victory for transparency, the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled today that the State Security Agency’s blocking of mobile phone signals during last year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) was unlawful.
— Right2Know (@r2kcampaign) September 29, 2016
The SA Editors Forum and the Right2Know Campaign (among others) raised some serious concerns during last year’s SONA debate, when it appeared that mobile phone signals were being jammed at the start of the address in parliament.
Subsequent to the actions by the State Security Agency, several media houses as well as R2K decided to take the matter to the courts, challenging Parliament’s decision to block the signals.
The first stop for the court case ended when three High Court judges ruled in Parliament’s favour last year.
At the time, Judges Dlodlo and Henney believed the use of a jamming device ahead of the SONA was justified and lawful because signal disruptors are used legitimately to protect officials and dignitaries at such events. They also accept that the use of a signal disruptor for longer than necessary was an only an “unfortunate error” after the individual tasked with switching it off forgot to do so.
Not taking it lying down, the judgement was challenged in the Supreme Court of Appeals after the applicants were granted leave to appeal. It is this judgement that has now been overruled, with the SCA declaring that the actions of SSA and parliament was in fact unlawful.
“Such draconian tactics are the hallmark of authoritarian regimes, and this latest incident underscores the worrying extent of the security cluster’s overreach in trying to shield the president,” the Right2Know Campaign said at the time.