Sanef: Govt hasn't signed Mandela protocol

2012-12-15 14:51

Johannesburg - Government's failure to sign off on a protocol for reporting on former president Nelson Mandela's health was short sighted, the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) said on Saturday.

"We put rules on the table that took detailed account of their input, and said we'd work with them in a very responsible manner," Sanef chairperson Mondli Makhanya said.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula's spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga and spokesperson for the Presidency Mac Maharaj said they could not comment on the matter.

Mandela, 94, was flown to Pretoria from his home in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape last Saturday. He has been hospitalised in a Pretoria facility since last weekend.

The presidency said he was suffering from the recurrence of a previous lung infection and was responding to treatment.

Mandela's hospital stay is his longest continuous period in hospital since 2001, when he underwent seven weeks of radiotherapy after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was 83 at the time.


In a statement on Saturday, Sanef said top editors and media executives have been working closely with government on a confidential protocol for providing news about Mandela's health while protecting his privacy and that of his family.

This was captured in a document drawn up after Mandela's hospitalisation in February.

A media task team was formed on 27 February, after a high level meeting between former Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and news editors.

This task team met with Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) to refine the confidential plan until a final document was presented to Sisulu in June when she verbally agreed to it.

It was agreed not to publish the entire document, but the self-imposed rules included that journalists were restricted to designated zones in the vicinity of the hospital.

It also included that no media would attempt to gain access to the medical facility without permission and acknowledgement from the media of security arrangements and restricted access.

Any breach of the code of conduct would result in the media house being expelled and denied access in the future in a commitment from the media to respect Mandela's dignity and privacy at all times.

Rules and restrictions

Sanef said the document was forwarded to the defence ministry on 5June, for approval. However, government did not immediately sign-off on the agreement and Sisulu was moved to another portfolio.

Since then the media has been told by GCIS that the document still had to be reviewed by the current defence minister.

"By the time Mr Mandela was hospitalised again this month the agreement had still not been signed off."

Makhanya said there were no rules or restrictions that would punish unethical behaviour by a journalist or a particular news room.

"Government is creating the very environment it says it doesn't want."

Various news organisations, including eNCA, Eyewitness News and the Mail & Guardian voiced their concern, saying Mandela was a global figure and when he become ill the entire world was anxious.

CNN Africa bureau chief Kim Norgaard said even the international media was prepared to co-operate on this.

"Our audiences also have a keen interest in Mr Mandela and have a profoundly deep respect for him."

  • JanGrimbeek - 2012-12-15 15:08

    Breaking news on BBC just came in : "BREAKING NEWS:Former S African President Mandela has operation to have gall stones removed"

  • nico.eksteen.7 - 2012-12-15 15:19

    I think our local media is depended on reports from the BBC on things going on in SA. LOL. Bunch of amateurs

  • jonas.mbedzi - 2012-12-15 15:20


  • thinus.lotz1 - 2012-12-15 16:42

    Media cant make up their minds. First it's happening in 1 military, then in a mediclinic in pta. First a lung infection, now gallstones. Media is being bought by government for sensation and newspaper sales about Mandela. News reports are already unbelievable, since secrecy bill it seems and it can be seen, since the news now are just as undesisive as the incompetent government.

  • bongani.mtsweni.35 - 2012-12-15 16:44

    Mondli Makhanya you are a disgrace to the African. How would fill if your father gets sick and journelist camp where he is being treated because they want to be the first ones to report his death. Cha aninamahloni because the presidence does update the nation then why do you camp there? Your work enthics sucks

  • sisa.mveku - 2012-12-15 17:41

    Overseas media is known 2 use dirty tactics 2 get their stories. eg. The Australian Radio DJs on Kate's hospitalisation. The British media and lengths they went to on Princess Diana, the phone tapping by Brit media of politicians earlier this year etc. SANEF is ryt Govt needs 2 sign off protocol in order to define boundaries 4 the media.

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