Parliamentary journalists 'very alarmed' over SONA security

(File, Netwerk24)
(File, Netwerk24)

Cape Town - The Parliamentary Press Gallery Association (PGA) is very alarmed at the planned restrictions of movement aimed journalists at this week's State of the Nation Address (SONA).

PGA chairperson Joylene van Wyk told News24 on Monday that the new security measures for President Jacob Zuma's first parliamentary address of 2017 on Thursday were unprecedented.

"We are very alarmed about the 'media squares' that Parliament wants to initiate on SONA day," she said.

"Journalists who want to move between two 'media squares' will need a police escort on the day."

This will be the first year that movement is restricted in squares for journalists on the occasion of the president's address.

Van Wyk also said that Lelie* Street, the street leading to the offices of many of the journalists based in Parliament, would be closed and inaccessible.

The PGA acknowledged that certain events required more stringent security protocols at Parliament, but said that free movement was essential for recording the day's events, and no such restrictions had been seen before.

Van Wyk said that getting accredited for the event meant that a journalist had met all the security requirements of Parliament. 

"They then cannot be hindered or obstructed or diverted away from any activity or incident that may occur on the west side of Parliament Street or may be seen from that area."

Assurances 'can't be trusted'

The PGA had met with Parliament and raised the concerns, she said.

"However, these assurances cannot be trusted because they insist on an escort and the corralling of the journalists into a media square.Such an escort can be used to delay or result in the non-reporting of any event of public interest."

Journalists had been assaulted at previous SONAs by "plain-clothed" security officials, she said.

The PGA will lobby the South African National Editor's Forum and various media houses to assist in filing an urgent court application to have the restrictions lifted.

Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana, meanwhile, promised last week that there would be no additional security measures during SONA.

"In terms of our operations, we have not really changed in terms of format from what we have done in the past," he said.

Roads around the precinct will be closed in phases from February 7.

*A previous version of this story incorrectly called Lelie street Spin Street.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
Have you decided who you are voting for on 1 November?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, and it is the same party I voted for previously
51% - 1012 votes
Yes, but my vote has changed to a new party
28% - 558 votes
No, I am still undecided
20% - 398 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.