Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
21 February 2007

Paris is sleeping…..

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) on Tuesday laid a 20 page complaint against the SABC with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa). The complaint argues that the SABC violated the Broadcasting Act 11 times, its licence conditions five times and the Constitution three times.

According to the Mail & Guardian:

An allegation that Zikalala showed a Special Assignment programme to the Presidency prior to broadcast is especially grave, as it opens the SABC up to editorial influence in violation of the Act and its own code of editorial practice.

The FXI further argues in its complaint that the denial of the existence of a blacklist in June last year had misled the public — a violation of the Act, the SABC code of practice and Icasa’s code of conduct for broadcasters.

The complaint also points to possible violations of the freedom-of-expression clause found in the Constitution. These include an attempt to force the Mail & Guardian Online to remove a copy of the blacklisting report, and the alleged screening of the Special Assignment show to the Presidency.

Having not seen the complaint and not being an expert on Icasa (after reading the various acts governing Icasa’s work I felt like a first year law student at a Master’s seminar on Tax Law), I have no idea whether the complaint has any legal merit.

However, if even a fraction of the media reports about the shenanigans at Icasa are true, I would not hold my breath for a speedy resolution of the dispute. After all, according to his ex secretary, Paris Mashile the chair of Icasa, hardly ever did Icasa work and liked taking off his shoes and having a nap in his office.

Maybe Mr Mashile is a very hard worker and his ex-secretary was lying through her teeth about his work habits. But given the fact that Icasa is the institution that is supposed to regulate Telkom and thus is supposed to help bring down telecommunication prices, I can only say again: don’t hold your breath FXI.

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