Parliament lied to journalists before Sona clampdown‚ says editors’ forum

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Parliament lied to journalists before Sona clampdown‚ says editors’ forum

Tanya Farber | 2017-02-11 15:45:09.0

Economic Freedom Fighters were removed from parliament during Presidents Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address at parliament, Cape Town.

Image by: ESA ALEXANDER/THE TIMES

Parliament paid lip service to the freedom of the press leading up to the state of the nation address then ushered in a mood of “fear and intimidation” at the event.

This is according to the South African National Editors Forum‚ which strongly condemned the treatment of journalists in parliament on Thursday night.

Sam Mkokeli‚ who heads the Sanef media freedom committee‚ told a news conference on Saturday: “We are concerned by conversations that took place before the event‚ as it is now clear those statements were not made in good faith.”

He was referring to a media briefing a week before President Jacob Zuma’s address during which the secretary to parliament‚ Gengezi Mgidlana‚ told journalists that there was “no foundation” to claims about the securitisation of parliament and “no basis of fact to the concerns raised by the media”.

Mkokeli was also referring to the fact that National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise said “on the eve of Sona” that parliament would like the media to do their work “without fear”.

Sanef chairwoman Mahlatse Gallens said the forum would “urgently raise this matter with parliamentary officials and the police”.

Although no journalists were hurt or assaulted‚ they were highly “restricted” in carrying out their work‚ said Sanef deputy chairwoman Katy Katapodis.

“So many areas were blocked off. Even (the) road where many broadcast media had set up makeshift studios‚ was blocked. You needed presenters who were free to move around but couldn’t. We would like to do our work without fear.”

One journalist who followed MPs ejected from the chamber was not allowed back in‚ while other journalists said the blocking of their freedom to cover the event “seemed very well co-ordinated” and deliberate.

Gallens said press freedom had deteriorated at Sona over the past three years and steps to counter this were part of a “bigger campaign” to fight for the right for a “people’s parliament”.

TMG Digital/TimesLIVE



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