ANC apologises for media-bashing

The ANC has apologised for the ”unfortunate” way in which members of the media have been treated at its national conference in Polokwane.

”We must extend our apologies for some of the incidents around the plenary venue between some members of the media and some of our marshals,” said ANC spokesperson Steyn Speed at a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon.

The apology followed three days of stand-offs between journalists and security marshals, especially in and around the main conference marquee, as well as Finance Minister Trevor Manuel swiping at a reporter with his umbrella on Tuesday after trying to take a Beeld photographer’s camera away from her. Some photographers’ equipment was damaged in scuffles and one had his accreditation tag confiscated.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) on Tuesday expressed its ”strongest protest” against the ”boorish treatment” of the media by ANC security staff.

”Sanef wishes to remind the ANC that proper media coverage of this crucial event, the importance of which goes way beyond the ANC and its internal dynamics and strife, should be a priority for the governing party,” the forum said. ”Images of the media’s exclusion from clearly defined open sessions of the conference as well as that of too many scuffles with rude ANC security personnel do not cover the ANC or the country in any glory.”

On Monday evening, there was clear miscommunication between ANC officials and security staff. Media had been instructed by ANC spokesperson Bheki Khumalo to gather at the main marquee at 8.30pm, to attend an open conference session. However, marshals threatened aggressively to have reporters removed. One said: ”Bheki Khumalo knows nothing.”

Speed said the ANC would ”make every effort” that such problems do not reoccur, and that communication with security officials would be improved — a reference to conflicting information provided to the media by ANC staff and marshals.

Sanef added that it ”deplores the apparent inadequate arrangements made by the ANC to accommodate and facilitate the media’s smooth and effective coverage of this most important political event”.

Journalists have complained about the media centre — with rudimentary facilities — being too far away from the conference marquee, and about not having any seats allocated inside the venue, forcing them to squat on the floor during open sessions.

Head of the presidency Smuts Ngonyama reportedly told Sanef that the ANC would improve the working conditions of journalists covering the conference.

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Riaan Wolmarans
Guest Author

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