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Port Elizabeth - The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) expressed shock on Thursday at the way the Eastern Cape education department treated East London newspaper Daily Dispatch.
It said the newspaper sent journalists to report on the start of matric exams but they were barred from a number of schools, including Grens High School, Clarendon, Selborne, Hudson, and Inkwenkwezi High School.
Journalists from other newspapers and broadcasters such as Die Burger, SABC, eNCA and ANN7 were given access.
“When the Dispatch journalists visited the schools, several principals and teachers refused to allow the paper's news teams to report on the start of the examinations,” Sanef said.
“Four schools at Mthatha said they had been told to refer the journalists to the provincial departmental spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani.”
Pulumani denied that the department had stopped Daily Dispatch journalists from doing their work.
“The department, like any self-respecting labour intensive organisation, that employs over 80,000 people, has a common communication policy and officially sanctioned spokespeople,” he said.
“Your reporters will attest to the fact that this is not the first time that they have been referred to the department, and on all those occasions we have intervened for them to be allowed space to do their jobs.”
He said he made it clear to the Dispatch's education reporter that when they wanted to access schools, the department's communications office should be consulted.
Sanef said authorities were acting in breach of section 16 of the Constitution, which lays down the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
“Sanef regards such a breach as very serious because it strikes at the heart of the democratic principles which underpin South Africa's Constitution,” the forum said.