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Most recent Communication Law Articles posted

STBs policy not an exercise of public power

The policy decision made by Communications Minister Faith Muthambi in 2015 on the encryption capability of government-supplied set top boxes (STBs) for digital migration is not reviewable by a court. This, notes a TimesLIVE report, is the gist of the submission made by Muthambi’s counsel Wim Trengove SC before the Constitutional Court yesterday.

Court mulls SABC bid to appeal Motsoeneng ruling

The SABC argued yesterday that Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s appointment was an internal arrangement and did not constitute an exercise of public power, and thus a court could not review it. A News24 report notes that the public broadcaster was applying to the Western Cape High Court for leave to appeal its earlier ruling on Motsoeneng’s appointment as group executive of corporate affairs.

Municipality sues over R92m CCTV camera system

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is suing a security firm and seven of the city’s current and former senior staff in the hope of recouping R92.4m spent on CCTV cameras for the beleaguered bus system in Port Elizabeth. According to a TimesLIVE report, the municipality believes the payments – ultimately approved by suspended corporate services boss Mod Ndoyana between November 2013 and September 2014 – were irregular and unlawful as there was no legal contract in place.

Icasa 'censorship' of DA advert condemned by

The Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) has painted a picture of a biased Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), which acted against Constitutional Court guidelines when its Complaints and Compliance Committee ruled in an ‘irrational and unreasonable’ manner against a DA election advertisement scheduled to be aired on the SABC during the 2014 elections campaign.

Encryption dispute stalls set-top box manufacture

Parliament has heard that the manufacture and procurement of set-top boxes – which will be required when digital migration occurs – has been halted pending the conclusion of the legal battle over the non-encryption of the converters. A Business Day report says the Universal Services and Access Agency of SA (Usaasa) – which is implementing the digital migration process – addressed a joint meeting of Parliament's Communications Committee.

Supreme Court of Appeal asked to rule against Parliament's censors

Media groups and NGOs took the issues of parliamentary signal-jamming and censoring of live broadcasts to the SCA yesterday, notes Legalbrief. Primedia‚ the SA National Editors Forum‚ the Right2Know Campaign and the Open Democracy Advice Centre approached the court to ensure live broadcasts from Parliament were not censored and that signal jamming devices were not used to block journalists using mobile phones, as had been the case during EFF disruptions of President Jacob Zuma’s State of Nation Address in February 2015.

Internet 'censorship' Bill under scrutiny

The controversial Films and Publications Amendment Bill, which seeks to regulate the digital distribution of films and games and has been widely criticised as being unconstitutional, is the focus of attention in Parliament’s Communications Committee, which is holding public hearings on the Bill this week. Critics argue the Bill is an attempt to censor the Internet in SA and have labelled it ‘Africa’s worst new Internet censorship law’, notes a BDlive report.

Hawks swoop on Gordhan and former SARS colleagues

The knives are out for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who is not only facing possible arrest by the Hawks tomorrow – he has been asked to present himself at their offices in connection with the alleged ‘rogue unit' at SARS – but is also the centre of what a News24 report describes as ‘a massive new forensic probe into deals concluded during his tenure at the organisation’.

Minister chose not to meddle in SABC – department

The Communications Ministry has taken a hands-off approach to the SABC because it has full confidence in the board, it said yesterday. A BDlive report says the department was responding to reports over recent developments at the public broadcaster, saying Communications Minister Faith Muthambi ‘chose not to meddle’ in its internal matters.

Freelancer's lawyers argue judge missed the point

SABC contributing editor Vuyo Mvoko’s constitutional rights to freedom of expression were infringed by the public broadcaster’s decision to ‘punish’ him by taking him off air for an article in which he criticised its management. This, says a Weekend Argus report, is argued in Mvoko’s application for leave to appeal against the dismissal of his application to have his contract enforced.

Connected businessman in R380m SABC licence-fee deal

Politically connected businessman Kuben Moodley stands to rake in R380m from a suspect debt-collection deal with the SABC authorised by the broadcaster’s acting CE, James Aguma, according to a Sunday Times report. It notes Moodley is a former special adviser to Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and golf partner of Salim Essa, a kingpin in the Gupta empire.

R1.3m damages claim for Facebook posts

The danger of defaming someone on Facebook was again highlighted in a damages claim instituted by Paul Hechter, whose name was ‘dragged in the mud’ following a run-in with his neighbour, says a report in The Mercury. Hechter said in papers before the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) that he was accused of being a Peeping Tom, a pervert and a paedophile.

SABC freelancer heads to SCA over ban

Senior political anchor at the SABC Vuyo Mvoko will be appealing to the SCA over the SABC’s decision not to put him on air, his lawyers said, according to a BDlive report. Mvoko was one of eight SABC journalists who lost their jobs for criticising the public broadcaster’s decision not to air footage of violent protests where public property was attacked.

Defamation action against editor next week

The long-delayed racism case brought by reporters against their then boss Ferial Haffajee is due in court next week. A report in The Star says the four former City Press reporters – Mawande Mvumvu, Khanyiso Tshwaku, Muntu Vilakazi and Denvor de Wee – brought the case against then editor Haffajee in January 2014, accusing her of defaming them by calling them racists.

Huge spy scandal case playing out in court

Court documents have revealed what a Sunday Times report says is shaping up to be one of SA’s biggest spy scandals. Details of how a government official allegedly persuaded Welkom millionaire Johannes Cronje to fork out more than R15m for one of the world’s most sophisticated mobile spy gadgets are revealed in an affidavit.

Journalist was just doing his duty

Senior political anchor at the SABC Vuyo Mvoko should not be punished, even for a day, for doing his constitutional duty, the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) heard yesterday. Legalbrief notes the court is expected to rule today on whether he will be immediately reinstated or told to await the outcome of an SABC investigation of misconduct against him. A BDlive report points out Mvoko is the last of the eight journalists who lost their jobs at the public broadcaster for criticising it for its ban on the broadcast of footage of violent protests. The other seven, who were employees, were reinstated after court action. 

Advocate at centre of Please Call Me dispute

The clash over Nkosana Makate’s payout from cellphone giant Vodacom has taken yet another nasty turn, says a Mail & Guardian Online report. This time, a senior advocate has landed up being the subject of a High Court application. Makate’s funders are questioning his experience as an arbitrator to preside over such a big money case. Michael Mabena SC was appointed by the chairperson of the Pretoria Bar Council to oversee a dispute between Makate and funders of his case against Vodacom.

SABC censorship – end of Act One?

After weeks of acrimony, protest actions, court cases and even a clash between the SABC hierarchy and the ANC, the curtain came down on the first act of the SABC censorship saga this week with the broadcaster’s management – at one point brash and defiant – apparently in disarray and facing costs orders, notes Legalbrief. The seven journalists who bore the brunt of the SABC’s animosity – they were suspended, fired, then turned away despite a Labour Court ruling before finally being reinstated when the broadcaster thought better about launching an appeal – are back at work. But the final act – a bid by the journalists to get Constitutional Court clarity on the role of the public broadcaster – has still to be played out.

Two down, one to go for SABC

The SABC conceded on two fronts this week in the battle over its censorship of news coverage – after reaching a settlement with the Helen Suzman Foundation in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) it agreed to withdraw various policies that appear to be designed to protect President Jacob Zuma, and said it would abide by Icasa’s order to reverse its decision not to show visuals of violent protests, notes Legalbrief.

SABC saga I: When the politicians fail

Just when the political pressure on the SABC board and its boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng appeared to be intensifying this week, the valve was opened courtesy of the ANC, which deflected the issue – correctly, it must be said – to Parliament. Trouble is, notes Legalbrief, Parliament doesn't sit again until mid-August by which time the local government elections will be over and the SABC's censorship decisions will still be in place, providing ammunition for challenges to the elections outcome. And calls for the National Assembly's Communications Committee to reconvene to deal with the issue have so far fallen on deaf ears.

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