On 13 December 2019, the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) calls for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to include a diversity of journalists at its elective conference opening today. SANEF has learnt that the EFF has denied access to journalists from Daily Maverick, Scorpio, amaBhungane, Rapport and Caxton publications, among several media outlets.
We believe this decision is unconstitutional.
SANEF understands that journalists from these publications applied in time. In terms of amaBhungane and the Daily Maverick instead of accreditation, they received emails that included two previous press statements issued by the party.
– “EFF is not moved by SANEF and its double standards on so-called investigative journalists” and “EFF notes testimony at the Zondo Commission against a journalist paid by State Security”.
The first statement is particularly instructive as it argues that the EFF has the right to freedom of association. It states, “… we have the right to decide who we associate with, in our events and platforms,” i.e. that the EFF has the right to exclude specific media organisations from their events.
We believe that this move infringes on the right of freedom of expression enshrined in Section 16 of our Constitution. Section 16 states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes “freedom of the press and other media” and “freedom to receive or impart information or ideas”
The Bill of Rights covers government and public bodies but is also importantly extended to private institutions and parties as mandated by section 8(2).
* The EFF’s ban of certain publications is in effect diminishing citizens right to receive information to make informed decisions about politics – including their view of the EFF.
* That the ban was imposed by the EFF to punish specific media organisations for reporting on their alleged corruption and theft i.e. journalists are being excluded for doing their job.
* The EFFs actions signal a warning to other media houses not to report critically and without fear or favour on wrongdoing.
* This ban is thus an act of intimidation.
We believe that while this intimidation will impact negatively on the affected media organisations, it will deprive ordinary citizens of relevant information that could assist them in making informed choices on how to vote. Therefore, the real victims of this ban are the voters and citizens.
As stated in one of our previous statements, the EFF leader Mr Julius Malema is titled an “Honourable Member of Parliament”, and as a member of parliament (MP) he has undertaken, as part of his oath of office, to uphold the Constitution. His calling for this ban of the country’s leading (and award-winning) investigative journalism units and other publications is at odds with the oath he took and with accepted standards of conduct for MPs.
We call on the EFF to allow journalists from Daily Maverick, Scorpio, amaBhungane and Rapport to attend. If this decision to exclude certain media organisations is not reversed, we call on MPs to sanction Mr Malema.
Finally, SANEF is not convinced by the EFF’s argument that the reason it excluded some journalists is due to lack of space at NASREC.
We know that some media houses received several accreditations.
We call on the EFF to provide access to a diversity of journalists, from a range of media outlets, at this critical event.
Note for Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research, education and training programmes.
For more information please contact:
• Katy Katopodis – Acting SANEF Chairperson, (082) 805-7022
• Moipone Malefane – SANEF Secretary General (082) 772-5861
• Mary Papayya – Acting SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957
• Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (073) 404-1415
• Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director (082 926 6404)