Sanef ‘perturbed’ by DA blacklisting journalist

2011-02-10 16:11

The SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) is “deeply perturbed” by a report that the Democratic Alliance had blacklisted a journalist from the Sowetan newspaper.

The newspaper reported that the DA had blacklisted the Sowetan’s Cape political correspondent Anna Majavu because she had “a political agenda”.

“The move by the DA against reporter Anna Majavu flies in the face of the DA’s founding liberal values, including commitment to press freedom,” Sanef said in a statement.

“The action is also incongruous with the DA’s stated support for media freedom, as shown by its vocal opposition to the proposed draconian statutory Media Appeals Tribunal and attempts to stem the free flow of information through the Protection of Information Bill.”

Sanef said calling Majavu’s credibility as a journalist into question “simply because she used to work for a trade union” was “preposterous”.

“This is the same tactic used by the ANC in an attempt to delegitimise the Press Ombudsman, arguing that he can’t be impartial because he is a journalist by training,” Sanef said.

“We call on the DA to rethink its position and lift the ban. Anything less would make it guilty of censorship and sully its otherwise commendable stance on freedom of speech.”

The DA blacklisted Majavu, a former spokesperson for the SA Municipal Workers Union, in August last year.

The party’s executive director of communications and research Ross van der Linde confirmed to the Sowetan that the party had cut communication with Majavu.

“Majavu is not a journalist. Some journalists and editors disagree with our policies and views, and they are entitled to do so. But Anna Majavu is a former South African Municipal Workers Union spin doctor, who has a particular political agenda,” Van der Linde said.

He said the DA was not obliged to send information to any individual or organisation.

The source of her ‘woes’
Majavu said her woes with the party started when she wrote a story about how DA MP Pieter van Dalen allegedly shot at two children in Khayelitsha.

The Sowetan said Majavu based her story on a report by Advocate Pierre van Tonder, who adjudicated in the matter of an appeal by a Metro police officer who was dismissed.

“The officer, with Van Dalen, shot rubber bullets at two children playing soccer in Khayelitsha late at night,” the Sowetan said.

Van Dalen – who was a councillor at the time of the incident – accompanied Metro police officers during the xenophobic attacks in 2008.

“The DA took me off their press list the same day they filed a complaint with the press ombudsman, and not because of my previous job,” Majavu said in the Sowetan report.

Sowetan acting editor Thabo Leshilo said it was unfortunate that the DA “chose to go this route”.

“History shows that the exclusion of journalists is used as a form of censorship against those who do not mollycoddle their subjects. It is no different from Julius Malema kicking out a journalist from a press conference”, he said.

The DA defended its decision to take Majavu off its mailing list.

Party spokeswoman Lindiwe Mazibuko said the press ombudsman had found that, on two occasions, Majavu did not report the news “truthfully, accurately and fairly”.

“We are under no legal or ethical obligation to distribute our statements to any particular individual or organisation. Seven Sowetan journalists receive our press statements every day. We are not barring any publication from receiving our communications.”

Mazibuko said Majavu appeared to have a particular agenda, and she had “demonstrated that over a long period of time”.

“She does not seem to be interested in reporting on the facts, she is malicious and her stories project blatant political bias, as is evidenced by the press ombudsman’s ruling,” Mazibuko said.

The National Union of Metalworkers said it “abhorred” the blacklisting.

“The DA’s actions are nothing else but, inspired by the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, of embedded newsrooms and journalistic work to advance a particular political agenda,” spokesperson Castro Ngobese said in a statement.

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