SONA Drama Part 5: Call for investigation into signal block

BY CHARL BOSCH - FEBRUARY 16, 2015

The Democratic Alliance (DA) and the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) has called for an investigation into the jamming of signals during President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address last Thursday, following allegations that it was done deliberately to prevent the media from reporting on the potential disruption threatened by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Speaking in a statement, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Gavin Davis, said that the party had written to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), asking for an immediate inquiry after journalists experienced a total loss in signal upon entering Parliament. This led to chants of bring back the signal ringing out through Parliament with the feed only being resorted after the party’s Chief Whip, John Steenhuisen, had complained to National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, which resulted in a delay of over 15 minutes.

“All indications are that the jamming of the signal was illegal. The question of who ordered the signal to be jammed is cloaked in secrecy,” Davis said.

On Friday, EFF leader Julius Malema accused State Security Minister, David Mahlobo, of being behind the block although the Presidency and various cabinet ministers had put the incident down to a technical glitch. Davis however stated that following Steenhuisen’s complaint, certain sources allege that the signal was resorted following the intervention of Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa.

He also added that the party had ordered ICASA to investigate the jamming of television signals which saw the blocking of eNCA satellites as well as the SABC’s blackout of the EFF’s scuffle with Parliament security and the DA’s eventual walkout.

This comes after a CityPress article on Sunday which alleges that the head of SABC news, Jimi Matthews, had instructed Parliament’s television director to not show the chaos unfolding, and to focus solely on Mbete and National Council of Provinces Chairperson, Thandi Modise, observing the removal of EFF MP’s.

According to the article, sources present in Parliament claims that a SABC parliamentary reporter had run from the media gallery to the doors of the National Assembly to cover the EFF being thrown out, but was told by Matthews, who was monitoring proceedings from an outside broadcasting unit, “not cut away from the speaker”.

SABC Spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, later confirmed that Matthews had passed the order, but denied the claims about the journalist.

“The cameras you are referring to are positioned at that same position every year to capture the parliamentarians when they leave Parliament. It is rather naive to think that they were there to capture the exit of the EFF. It must be noted that this does not suggest that we did not cover the EFF when they left Parliament. We covered them when they were marching out towards Marks Building,” he is quoted by the paper as saying.

Responding to allegations that the public broadcaster’s controversial SABC Chief Operations Officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, had barred the use of political analysts for television and radio broadcasts during the SONA, Kganyago said, “It was our plan not to use commentators, as we have senior journalists who we felt were capable enough to do the work at hand”.

Managing Director of eNCA, Patrick Conroy, later told the paper that four out of its six satellites were blocked, while the broadcaster’s executive producer, Mapi Mhlangu, said that its reporter inside had to use her iPhone to capture the EFF’s removal.

 

CAPTION: Still image showing Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane, objecting to the lack of network during President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address last Thursday. IMAGE sourced from eNCA

 

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