Communications regulator Icasa is “obliged” to investigate the jamming of cellular signals and other incidents that led to an “unprecedented contravention of media freedom” during the state-of-the-nation address by President Jacob Zuma on Thursday evening, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.
The jamming of the signals has been roundly condemned, including by the media, opposition parties, the presidency and the ANC.
Democratic Alliance MP Gavin Davis said he has written to Icasa chairman Stephen Mncube asking for an “urgent inquiry into what appears to have been an orchestrated strategy to prevent the public from seeing what transpired at the state-of-the-nation address”.
“Besides the well-documented jamming of the cellular signal inside the national assembly, it is reported in City Press that parliament’s TV feed cut away from the forced removal of the Economic Freedom Fighters’ and the DA’s walk-out from the house; SABC head of news Jimi Matthews issued an instruction to staff not to show the EFF and the DA as they left the house;
and SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng prevented independent commentators from being invited to give on-air analysis,” Davis said.
He said Icasa is obliged to investigate the signal jamming in terms of section 30(4) of the Electronic Communications Act. This section says that Icasa “must investigate and resolve all instances of harmful interference to licensed services that are reported to it”.
“It is therefore incumbent on Icasa to find out who jammed the signal, for what purpose and under whose orders,” Davis said.
“All indications are that the jamming of the signal was illegal. In November 2002, Icasa published a notice in Government Gazette 24123 that expressly prohibits the scrambling of cellphone signals.”
He said the jamming was an “unprecedented contravention of media freedom”.
“It meant that journalists inside the parliamentary press gallery couldn’t file their stories, document proceedings live via social networks, or communicate with their colleagues outside the house.”
The DA has also requested Icasa to investigate the blackout of the DA and the EFF from parliament’s live feed and the SABC broadcast of the event, as well as the SABC’s alleged blacklisting of commentators and interference with news channel eNCA’s satellite feed.
“The events that transpired during the state-of-the-nation address have shocked the nation to its core. We need to do everything we can to restore the public’s faith in the institutions that check and balance the abuse of executive power. We therefore call on Icasa to carry out this investigation without delay, and without fear or favour.” — (c) 2015 NewsCentral Media