'Journalists, lawyers under surveillance should get enhanced protection'

AmaBhungane has argued that journalists and practising lawyers should get enhanced protection if they are subject to surveillance.

The argument was heard on Thursday as part of AmaBhungane's bid to confirm a high court judgment which found that parts of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica) are unconstitutional.

In 2017, AmaBhungane filed an application in the high court to challenge the constitutionality of the act.

The court application was launched after it emerged that amaBhungane's investigative journalist Sam Sole had been a target of state surveillance under Rica.

His communications were intercepted while he was reporting on the corruption investigation against former president Jacob Zuma.

The lawyer acting on behalf of Amabhungane, Dario Milo explains their argument.

At the moment, the designated judge can grant an interception order in relation to a journalist without being told explicitly that that person is a journalist for example and of course that means that confidential sources are at risk.

Dario Milo, Lawyer acting on behalf of Amabhungane

Now what we are saying is that when the application comes and it is to survey a journalist or a practising lawyer - because lawyers also engage in confidential discussions with clients, at least the designated judge should be made aware of the fact and there should be good reason why that can happen and still protect the legally privileged information or confidential sources that both of those professions involve.

Dario Milo, Lawyer acting on behalf of Amabhungane

We believe that the state has not put up a sufficient case to justify the infringement of the right to privacy and the associated infringement to the right of freedom of expression and access to courts. We believe that the arguments we make for the unconstitutionality of Rica are very persuasive....

Dario Milo, Lawyer acting on behalf of Amabhungane

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