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The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has asked the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)  to include fair treatment of media in the declarations and pledges that political parties sign during elections. Sanef also asked that political parties start adhering to the electoral code of conduct even before the date is promulgated as campaign was already underway and journalists experiencing problems in some areas.

The requests were made during a fruitful meeting with the leadership of the IEC and representatives of political parties held at the IEC offices in Tshwane on Tuesday (23 Feb 2016).

Sanef requested the meeting after a decision at its recent council meeting that there was an urgent need to engage with political parties about respecting the role of the media and protecting journalists from any form of political harassment and intimidation, particularly in an election year.

The Sanef delegation highlighted the role of the media in communicating political messages in an election year. If and when political parties take umbrage with the way certain media organisations cover their elections campaigns, they should contact the relevant editors or take the matter up with the office of the Press Council of South Africa and or the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa.

Sanef urged the IEC and political parties to consider bringing into effect the Electoral Code of Conduct even before a date for local government elections has been proclaimed. The pledge that political parties are required to sign before the elections should include reference to respect for the media and journalists before, during and after the election. We await the response from parties and the IEC, mindful that representatives had to obtain mandates from their party leaders.

The Sanef request effectively means taking Section 8 of the Municipal Electoral Act (27 of 2000) and inserting some of its aspects into the pledge that parties sign when they commit themselves to fair electioneering. The section states:

Every party and every candidate-

(a) must respect the role of the media before, during and after an election;
(b) may not prevent access by members of the media to public political meetings, marches, demonstrations and rallies; and
(c) must take all reasonable steps to ensure that journalists are not subjected to harassment, intimidation, hazard, threat or physical assault by any of their representatives or supporters.

During the meeting, Sanef condemned instances where bribes, guised as “cooldrink money” or “transport money”, were offered to journalists in the past to cover the events of certain political parties. Sanef campaigns for ethical journalism and has expressed our willingness to assist political parties who wish to better understand media operations.
Political parties welcomed Sanef’s offer and complained that there was inequitable coverage of their parties by the media.

For enquiries please contact:
Mpumelelo Mkhabela, Sanef Chairperson 0822962541
Adriaan Basson, Sanef Media Freedom Committee chairman 0825622113