Media unaware of Parliament's media policy

2011-10-04 16:30

Johannesburg - Parliament's "Policy on Media Relations Management", which makes journalists get permission from Parliament before interviewing anyone there for a story, was not discussed with the media, the SA National Editors Forum said on Tuesday.

"This is the first time that we have seen this document," said Sanef’s Raymond Louw.

"They have the discourtesy to sign on a set of rules which they have not discussed with the media. They have also failed to communicate the policy rules to the media."

The Times reported that Independent Newspapers' political correspondent Deon de Lange's parliamentary accreditation may be suspended because he wrote an article relating to the access to state information bill, based on an interview with an unnamed senior parliamentary ANC official.


According to the report, the secretary to Parliament, Zingile Dingani, wrote to the Independent Group editors asking why he should not withdraw De Lange's accreditation

ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga reportedly also threatened to crackdown on De Lange's source and ordered an investigation.

In response to an inquiry on the matter, Parliament's media office faxed Sapa a copy of the policy, signed in August 2009 by Mninwa Mahlangu, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and Max Sisulu, the Speaker of the National Assembly.

After reading it for the first time on Tuesday, Louw said the time it was signed roughly equated to the time the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association was moved out of the Parliament building to another building in the precinct.

‘Parliament doesn’t have that right’

At the time, it was seen as an attempt to prevent ready access by reporters to members of Parliament.

"This set of regulations seems to have a similar motive behind it - to prevent reporters from having open contact with MPs."

"If you want an interview with a parliamentary representative, you have got to apply through the media relations office."

A breach could lead to media accreditation being withdrawn or suspended.

But, said Louw, Parliament does not have the power to revoke accreditation.

"Parliament doesn't have that right, only the Speaker, or chairman of the NCOP."

According to the policy, the media office manager became an intermediary between Parliament and the media.


"He exercises a censorship right which is unacceptable," said Louw.

Nobody can speak to the media or give releases or statements on behalf of Parliament, unless instructed to do so.

It could also force parliamentary spokespeople for political parties, or MPs, to first go through Parliament's media office before commenting on any issues.

"This is... an imposition of a set of regulations without proper consultation."

De Lange's conduct in speaking to his source was "perfectly normal", said Louw.

"De Lange has every right to speak to anybody in Parliament. If they don't want to give information, it's their choice.

"The intention of removing his accreditation is a form of censorship."

Sanef would ask for a meeting with the Speaker and the chairperson of the NCOP, and would also present their objections in writing.


The Cape Town Press Club said it was also unaware of the rules.

"The Cape Town Press Club has never had sight of such a set of rules, and would urge Parliament to share them with the members of the media, if they intend holding journalists to such rules."

The club urged Parliament to immediately reconsider its reported intentions and to leave De Lange to do his job.

Pieter Groenewald, the parliamentary leader of the Freedom Front Plus, said Parliament could not "one-sidedly make decisions for MPs".

"The secretary [Dingani] should rather manage his personnel than try to control the media.

"The media should be allowed to communicate freely with whomever it wishes. It always remains the other party's prerogative to react or refrain from reacting," Groenewald said.

  • EishPasteSarmi - 2011-10-04 16:47

    ANC at it again.... welcome to the USSR fellow SAffas!

  • EishPasteSarmi - 2011-10-04 16:47

    ANC at it again.... welcome to the USSR fellow SAffas!

  • Vela Stardust - 2011-10-04 17:05

    Isibhanxa! Nice word. What can one expect from the isibhanxa in parliament?

  • Gansie - 2011-10-04 17:08

    Typical behaviour of a bunch of 'anti freedom of speech' politicians whose daily mistakes are made public by the journalists. This is another blatant effort to silence the media.

  • WoodworkPh.D - 2011-10-04 17:19

    popcorn...and the comrade plot thickens...

  • Vince York - 2011-10-04 17:20

    There is FAR WORSE coming that has been cooking up every evening behind closed murky doors that is still to unfold to all that have been blindly napping - contentedly earning "busy" wealth soon to be brought under severe control and doled out on a whim. Too 'busy' to smell the flowers as they are poisoned around us all! Few have any real idea what is in store for them under this regime!

  • CJRhodes - 2011-10-04 17:24

    Ignorance of LAW is no defence

      Protest - 2011-10-04 18:48

      Since when is the "Policy on Media Relations Management" Law?

  • OLIBO - 2011-10-04 17:32

    I'm happy Parliament finally move the Press Gallery Association to anothe building far from the NA Chamber. Where in the world have you ever seen the press being the space like it used to be in our Parliament. The next thing I would like Parliament to remove the big statue next to the main entrance. I think it is an insult to have that statue representing the colonial era. To Raymond Louw, the answer is that Parliament has a right to determine its policies just like any other organisation. Aluta Continua!

      Democrat - 2011-10-04 18:03

      The struggle continues - What struggle? The struggle to keep all the shenanigans of those in office under wraps most likely!

      BunduBabe - 2011-10-04 18:51

      Uhm the White House Press Corp is based in the White House as is the British press in Parliament. duh

  • Nogeen - 2011-10-04 17:33

    Ook dit is nie nuut onder die ANC nie - wat is?

  • Maleo - 2011-10-04 17:34

    @overpriviledged: What's you point? Stick to the article -- is that so difficult to understand?

  • beicime - 2011-10-04 18:01

    The least the media knows the better the ANC can manipulate its interests. On the other hand think that the ANC appints people that can't do a proper job.

  • joshreader - 2011-10-04 18:37

    Almost every day brings with it evidence that the ANC government seeks to curtail, censor and circumscribe the media. It is a cliche to say that a healthy democracy requires a free and even nosy press. It is a cliche, but it is also true. How else to uncover the corruption that dominates our news? Of course, that corruption embarrasses the ANC. Not the corruption, per se, but the reports of it. Instead of banishing the corruption, the government seek to banish the free press. But this is the most dire and corrupt act of all. I am interested in politics, and I am interested in the media, but the way the former is intruding on the latter is depressing the hell out of me.

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