Different legal representative at the High Court in Pretoria during an application by amaBhungane against Rica's surveillance regulations laws. Picture: Brenda Masilela / ANA;

Pretoria - The amaBhungane Centre of Investigative Journalism argued through its counsel on Tuesday at the High Court in Pretoria that the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) lacks necessary safeguards to protect the public's right to privacy and argued that some of its sections should be declared invalid.

This comes after amaBhungane launched an application when they learned that one of their investigative journalists, Sam Sole, had been the target of state surveillance under RICA, while investigating the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to drop corruption charges against former President Jacob Zuma.

Advocate Steven Budlender, for amaBhungane, said under the current regulations, journalists and their sources were not protected.

"Rica has no provision for who is allowed to access your private data once it has been intercepted, how it is stored or how your unrelated private conversations with your family, for example, are dealt with," Budlender said.

Budlender said there should be proper regulations of the State's bulk surveillance architecture, saying it is wide open to abuse.

"We are not saying the whole security and interception regime should collapse, we saying there are no adequate safe guards. Because it does reach into the hearts of people's privacy, their most private communications,  and we are saying if you do that, there needs to be proper safeguards.”

He also argued that if a subject is under surveillance, they should be notified once the surveillance has been concluded, saying this safeguards the principle of open justice.

"This way you can challenge whether the surveillance was justified or malicious and politically-motivated."

Budlender went on to make an example about police obtaining a search warrant and how individuals are informed prior to their houses being searched.

"Under Rica, it's like the police turning up at your house, rifling through your stuff, taking photos, and then putting everything back before you get home."

In their heads of arguments, amaBhungane included numerous journalists whose phones were intercepted while they were conducting investigations on allegedly corrupt State officials.

Legal representatives for the National Communication Center and Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services are expected to argue against amaBhungane.

The matter continues.

African News Agency (ANA)