Challenges Faced in ICASA Hearing: A Fight for Access to Information

In Thursday, 09 November’s court hearing challenging the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), participants faced numerous obstacles that shed light on the difficulties faced by persons with hearing impairments.

The courtroom’s sound system posed a significant challenge, making it difficult for participants to hear proceedings clearly. Moreover, the dim lighting conditions made lip-reading a struggle. Acknowledging the group’s difficulties, the judge halted proceedings, showing sensitivity to their needs. An invitation for one participant, Therina, to move closer, as people relying on lip-reading needed to be close to the lip-speaker practitioner. The judge also allowed the group to sit near the legal desks.

Advocate Emma Webber, representing persons with hearing impairments, was well-prepared and eloquently stated their case. However, ICASA’s advocate seemed less interested in the human rights aspect or access to information and communication. Instead, the focus was on two technical points: the group’s delayed response within the 180-day timeframe and the contention that ICASA’s role is to call for and consider comments, not necessarily incorporate all comments into the Code.

The participants argued that their comments aimed to align ICASA with the constitutional right of people to access information and communication. They sought to address the current communication gaps within the Code rather than merely advancing their own comments.

ICASA’s advocate insisted that the case should be dismissed, emphasizing that the correct procedure for changing the Code should be followed. They argued that, since licenses and TV registrations had already been issued, making changes was now impossible. The dismissive tone also included claims that the participants lacked understanding and that their submitted comments had no substance. The suggestion was made that individual complaints could be managed separately.

Emma Webber, in her closing remarks, emphasized ICASA’s responsibility to ensure inclusion in broadcasting, highlighting that access to information and communication is a constitutional right. She criticized ICASA’s dismissal of their substantive letters, pointing out the unprofessionalism in disregarding a collective complaint. She underscored that ICASA’s role goes beyond addressing concerns only when raised by individuals, as managing complaints is a separate issue.

The judge, acknowledging the complexity of technical points, reserved judgment, emphasizing her responsibility to consider whether people’s rights are being upheld. The court was adjourned, the judge has reserved her decision, and we are waiting in anticipation.

Media enquiries and request for information, interviews and images:

Therina Wentzel: National Director | +27 83 255 6854 (WhatsApp or Text) |
Fanie du Toit: Specialist Hearing loss | 082 820 7358 (WhatsApp) |
Alex Msitshana: NCPD Chairperson |

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