Johannesburg - The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) has condemned the blocking of journalists by Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams from covering the actions of protesters at an ANC elections manifesto launch in Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape.
"Sanef has seen the video footage which was also broadcast on television stations showing the minister preventing the journalists from covering the protest and ordering them to cover what they came for and not give coverage to 'people that are out of order'. Irate supporters stormed the rally complaining about poor service delivery. Journalists from the SABC and other media were among those blocked," Sanef said in a statement.
"While we note the minister has apologised for the incident, we are concerned that she refers to her actions as an 'altercation'. Given the minister’s high profile portfolio relating in particular to the SABC, we would like to have an urgent meeting with her to discuss the matter and our concerns.
"We also salute the SABC for airing the footage, showing fierce editorial independence and a shift from the recent past where freedom of expression was undermined at the public broadcaster," Sanef said.
Sanef held its council meeting on Saturday, and ahead of the 2019 elections called on political party leaders to allow the media to do its work without fear or favour and ensure the safety of journalists at their events.
"There is empirical evidence to show that when senior party leaders and politicians muzzle journalists, their supporters follow in their footsteps. Should any person, organisation, or political party feel genuinely aggrieved by a story or any actions taken by the media they should follow the correct channels to address their grievances," Sanef said.
In a terse statement on Saturday night, Ndabeni-Abrahams said, "I would like to offer my sincere unreserved apologies for an earlier altercation with some members of the media during the ANC provincial rally in Mount Frere whilst trying to stop the singing comrades'
"I wish to assure the media and South Africans at large my unreserved commitment to media freedom. I sincerely regret the incident," she said.
African News Agency (ANA)