The High Court of South Africa on Monday declared mass surveillance activities unlawful, local news website News24 reported. The verdict came in a case filed by an investigative journalism organisation that had challenged parts of the country’s controversial surveillance law.
The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act was allegedly used by the government to record phone communications of journalist Sam Sole in 2008. At the time, Sole was investigating the decision to drop corruption charges against former President Jacob Zuma. After the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism demanded to know the basis of the surveillance, the State Security Agency said it had acted on a court order.
The journalism centre challenged the constitutionality of the law, and said it violated the right to privacy. It urged the court to declare it unconstitutional.
In his order, Judge Roland Sutherland said investigative journalists needed to keep their sources private and secretive as it was “axiomatic to the exercise”. He also declared the interception of foreign signals by the country’s National Communications Centre “unlawful and invalid”.
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