The High Court in Johannesburg has declared mass surveillance unlawful. This after an investigative journalism outfit AmaBhungane applied for six orders to declare unlawful sections of Regulation of Interception of Communication and Provision of Communication-Related Act (Rica).

AmaBhungane has won a court case against the Minister of Justice, including the State Security Agency and 11 others.

The Act allowed for mass surveillance to be conducted and also for individuals to be placed under surveillance without their knowledge.

The AmaBhungane obtained all the six orders they sought against RICA. It wanted certain sections of Rica declared unconstitutional.

The outfit’s co-founder Sam Sole says, “The person whose intercepted communication is being monitored must be informed and obviously if there is an ongoing investigation that process can be delayed. But at some point you must be told so that you can challenge that in court, if you think it’s unreasonable and unfair. The other key thing is something called bulk interception; they do it via computer. They look for key words. But our argument was that it happens outside of any legal framework.”

Sole found that his communication had been intercepted while working on certain stories. He then interrogated the Rica and found a number of loopholes which directly affected his work as a Journalist.

He says he is pleased with the outcome.

“Being able to give people some kind of guarantee or security of being in confidence when they give us information – not being disclosed – that’s key to get people to talk to us. If there’s perception that the state can call out Sam’s records and see who he’s been talking to, that has a chilling effect on our job.”

See Amabhungane tweet below: