City Press journalist blocked from ANC’s Limpopo congress

2011-12-15 13:41

At least two journalists have been blocked at the last minute from covering the ANC’s Limpopo congress this weekend because of what the party claims is limited space.

City Press’s Piet Rampedi and Sowetan’s Frank Maponya – who have both written critically about the ANC and provincial government leadership – have been excluded.

The New Age’s Mpho Dube is said be the third journalist, but he was unable to confirm this.

Rampedi said he was told on Tuesday that his registration was in order, but today he suddenly received an email saying it had been rescinded.

Rampedi missed Tuesday’s “preregistration”, but Mandisa Mashego from the party’s communications and media department assured him he could still register tomorrow.

But today Mashego said Rampedi was “never accepted initially. It was a mistake that I included him in the accepted journalists list.”

Mashego said the conference was “oversubscribed by 30 journalists”, but it was “the ANC’s prerogative to accept or decline in terms of capacity”.

She wasn’t allowed to disclose who the 30 journalists were, or what criteria were used to exclude them.

She said journalists from City Press already had accreditation, so the withdrawal of Rampedi’s accreditation was not to the newspaper’s detriment.

Mashego said the ANC had already apologised to City Press and Sowetan for withdrawing the accreditation of their journalists.

When City Press requested Mashego to swap Rampedi with another accredited journalist because he was already in Polokwane – where he is based – she refused to grant that.

“The editorial decisions cannot have an impact on our decisions. Our process does not involve consulting with newsrooms.”

Said City Press editor-in-chief Ferial Haffajee: “In our collective experience of almost two decades now, the ANC is a generally transparent organisation that runs accreditation in fair and open ways – huge numbers are accommodated to satisfy the requirements of transparency. We hope these decisions will be overturned to ensure that the technical tool of accreditation is never ever used as an opportunity to blacklist rigorous and independent journalists.”

Maponya’s accreditation was withdrawn after he wrote a story for today’s paper on a businessman who claimed to have been offered a R300 000 tender – which he hasn’t tendered for – if he voted for Premier Cassel Mathale.

Most of the other journalists who still had to register received emails today confirming their registration.

This weekend’s fiercely contested congress will see Deputy Arts and Culture Minister Joe Phaahla challenging Mathale for the provincial chairmanship.

Mathale is backed by suspended ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, while Phaahla has received backing from Malema’s detractors, including Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba.

The conference is also considered to be a measure of strength for Malema, who has appealed his five-year suspension from the party.

ANC Limpopo provincial secretary Joe Maswanganyi, who is set to contest the election on Phaahla’s list, said it was “wrong” to withdraw Rampedi’s accreditation.

“We can’t choose. If we have many people accredited from one organisation we should tell that media house on time so that they can choose who should be accredited.”

Maswanganyi confirmed it was difficult to accredit the 72 journalists initially accredited because the conference venue wasn’t big enough. But he said the party cannot take a decision on who to exclude.

“We need to communicate with media houses.”

In June the ANC Youth League decided to limit the number of journalists allowed at its conference in Midrand, but it warned journalists beforehand that it would only allow a limited number of journalists from each media house.

The ANC’s national spokespeople, Keith Khoza, and Jackson Mthembu couldn’t be reached immediately, while several attempts to contact the ANC’s Limpopo spokesperson, David Masondo, failed.

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