In what is no doubt a major victory for openness and transparency in parliamentary proceedings, the SCA today ruled that both the use of a signal jamming device, and the manner in which the shenanigans of MPs during SONA 2015 were broadcast (or not broadcast) were unconstitutional. Sections of the legislature’s policy and rules on broadcasting procedures were struck down.
In a detailed and well reasoned argument, the court systematically shot down every lame excuse proffered by the Speaker of the National Assembly and the other respondents as to why rowdy behaviour in parliament should effectively be censored by simply displaying the presiding officer’s face on camera. The court was also scathing of the Speaker’s arguments that such actions, as well as the use of signal jamming devices, are not her responsibility, but rather the responsibility of security personnel and parliament’s broadcasting unit.
While the court stopped short of making new rules and policies (which it correctly found would be overstepping its powers), it made it very clear that in this country, we have a constitutional right to see what happens in parliament – including when MP’s behave like naughty children. Furthermore, the buck stops with the presiding officer to ensure that no unreasonable or unconstitutional steps are taken to censor the broadcasting of such behaviour.
One sincerely hopes that the Speaker and other respondents will abide by this decision, instead of following what has apparently become standard operating procedure in recent years by government to blindly appeal all decisions against it, with no regard to the wasted costs.