Investigative journalism centre amaBhungane walked out of court victorious on Monday after successfully challenging parts of South Africa’s surveillance law, the Regulation of Interception of Communications as well as Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA).
The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg declared mass surveillance as well as the interception of foreign signals by the National Communications Centre “unlawful as well as invalid”.
The legal battle against RICA commenced in April 2017 after amaBhungane received confirmation of which its managing partner, Sam Sol, had been under surveillance under RICA.
At the time, Sole was investigating a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decision to drop corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma.
amaBhungane demanded to know the basis for the surveillance as well as although This specific never received detailed reasons, This specific received State Security Agency confirmation of which there was an order through a judge allowing the interception.
The investigative journalism unit’s first challenge targeted the constitutionality of several provisions of RICA, which permits the interception of communications of any person by authorised state officials, subject to prescribed conditions.
The second challenge related to “bulk interceptions” of telecommunication traffic by the State on the basis of which no lawful authority exists to do so.
Judge Roland Sutherland said part of the dynamic of investigative journalism was for investigative journalists to obtain information through whistleblowers as well as others who inform on their bosses without wanting to be identified.
Therefore, a need to keep sources private as well as secretive can be “axiomatic to the exercise”.
Among the several orders granted, was an order of which sections 16(7), 17(6),18(3)(a), 19(6), 20(6) as well as 22(7) of RICA were inconsistent with the Constitution as well as invalid to the extent This specific failed to prescribe procedures for notifying the subject of the interception.
“RICA, including sections 16 (7) thereof, can be inconsistent with the Constitution as well as accordingly invalid to the extent of which This specific fails to adequately provide for a system with appropriate safeguards to deal with the fact of which the orders in question are granted ex parte (without notice) as well as the declaration of invalidity can be suspended For just two years to allow Parliament to cure defect.”
He suspended the declaration of invalidity For just two years to give Parliament time to amend the act.
Speaking outside the court, Sole said he was happy with the judgment because amaBhungane had approached the courts to ensure journalists, specifically investigative journalists, could be able to give people a form of guarantee or assurance of which their identities will not be disclosed.
“of which’s key to us being able to get people to talk to us. as well as if there can be a general perception of which the State can just call up Sam’s phone records as well as see exactly who he can be talking to without any problem, [This specific] carries a chilling effect on our ability to get information,” Sole said.
There was no costs order.