The South Africa National Editors’ Forum remains extremely concerned that security arrangements for the president’s State of the Nation address may restrict the ability of journalists to carry out their work.
SANEF has been supporting efforts by the Press Gallery Association to urgently consult parliament to get assurances that security officers will ensure freedom of movement for the event.
SANEF subsequently wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete and chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise, spelling out our concerns and asking for urgent clarity. The letters were acknowledged, and Modise said she had referred the matter to the Secretary to parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana.
However, these efforts were hampered this morning after parliament issued a statement that was not only premature but also was not a true reflection of what had transpired at a meeting between the PGA, a SANEF representative and Mr Mgidlana on Tuesday evening.
SANEF supports the PGA’s request – made at what was to be a follow-up meeting – for the statement to be withdrawn. The statement was misleading and claimed that agreement on a range of issues had been reached. The statement amounted to a breach of trust in ongoing attempts to find a solution to our serious concerns about security plans at parliament.
SANEF has always understood and abided by special measures implemented in the past during special events like SONA. However, twenty-four hours ahead of the event, there are many concerns and questions remaining. For instance, at the Tuesday meeting, an assurance was given that the media’s concerns would be raised with the police and feedback communicated to the PGA and SANEF.
Even at this late hour, SANEF remains hopeful that these matters will be clarified urgently and that journalists will not be restricted to a so called “media square”, and that the police and other security units will be instructed to allow journalists to conduct their work without unwarranted obstruction.
Sanef Chairperson Mahlatse Gallens 083 399 2852; Sanef Media Freedom Sub Committee Chairperson Sam Mkokeli 082 084 2051