Today the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) handed down an important victory for transparency and the public’s right to an open Parliament. Setting aside an earlier judgement by the Western Cape High Court, the SCA has ruled that it was unconstitutional to censor the television feed as Parliament did at the 2015 State of the Nation Address. The judgement also ruled that the State Security Agency’s use of signal-jamming, which blocked the use of cell phones in the National Assembly that night, was unlawful.
We welcome this judgement as a vindication of the right for ordinary South Africans to have a Parliament that is open and transparent. This ruling should act as a warning against future clampdowns in Parliament, which have already manifested in heavyhanded new “security measures” that have made it harder for ordinary people to get access to Parliamentary sittings, invasive security vetting of civil servants working in Parliament, and the anonymous accusation made by security officials in October 2015 that civil society organisations and activists who participate in Parliamentary processes (including the Right2Know) are security threats or foreign agents.
Today’s judgement is a resounding endorsement of the principles of openness and transparency which Parliament must strive to uphold and which the SSA and other security structures must respect. Forward with the right to know!
We thank our legal team at the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) which represented us at the High Court and SCA. Our co-applicants, Primedia Broadcasting and the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), were represented by Webber Wentzel attorneys.
The judgement is available for download here.