Don't allow journalists to dictate, court urged
A senior counsel representing the State Security Agency told the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) yesterday that journalists were not entitled to dictate how the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica) should be implemented.
Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana made his submissions after amaBhungane brought an application to declare some of sections on Rica unconstitutional and invalid, notes a report on the IoL site.
The application was launched when amaBhungane learned that one of its journalists, Sam Sole, had been the target of state surveillance under Rica while investigating the decision by the NPA to drop corruption charges against former President Jacob Zuma.
amaBhungane argued that Rica lacks necessary safeguards to protect the public's right to privacy. It also suggested that subjects of surveillance should be notified once the surveillance has been concluded, thereby safeguarding the principle of open justice.
Ngalwana disputed this argument and said journalists could not be given preferential treatment. He argued that he did not see the feasibility of post surveillance notification, saying it served no purpose and would only compromise the intelligence agencies and national security.
‘Courts are not there to dance to the tune of the media for brownie points. In any event it is impermissible for the court to enter into the fray of powers of a legislative nature,’ he said.
Ngalwana said journalists should raise their concerns during public consultation periods.
‘They cannot opt out of that process and come to court and seek to force their own version of what the law should say, when they are not accountable for the high crime rate, politicians are.’
In his closing statement, Ngalwana said amaBhungane should be ordered to pay costs because it knew as early as June 2017 that there is was a Bill in process to amend Rica.
Advocate Steve Budlender, for amaBhungane, asked the court to dismiss this.
‘The supplementary affidavit submitted by counsel ... does not even provide a Bill, only a proposed timeline', he said, according to the IoL report. Budlender said the notion and position advanced by Ngalwana is reminiscent of apartheid era and should not be considered.
Judgment has been reserved.
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