Parliament to reconsider controversial media policy

A parliamentary policy which dictates that journalists request permission before interviewing support staff from political parties will be re-considered.

The policy on media relations management would be reconsidered on the basis of proposals submitted by media bodies in the pending mid-term review by Parliament and the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

Sanef earlier on Wednesday met speaker of Parliament Max Sisulu, chairperson of the national council of provinces Mninwa Mahlangu, and secretary to Parliament Zingile Dingani.

This followed an incident in which Parliament sent a letter to the editor of Independent Newspapers on an article that journalist Deon de Lange wrote using information from an unnamed parliamentary official.

The article dealt with the Protection of State Information Bill.

Parliament asked why De Lange’s parliamentary accreditation should not be withdrawn. Follow ups then yielded a copy of the policy on media relations management.

Sanef, the Cape Town Press Club and the Press Gallery Association (PGA) have said the policy was unheard of until the action against De Lange.

The policy was signed by Parliament’s presiding officers in 2009, and applied only to journalists seeking information on the business of Parliament and information from parliamentary officers who were civil servants.

“The fruitful engagement was aimed at ensuring that both Parliament and the media are able to operate optimally in pursuit of their respective roles and duties in the service of citizens and our democracy,” the statement by Sanef and Parliament read.

It was further greed that the process initiated in the letter sent to Independent Newspapers regarding De Lange’s accreditation would not be pursued.

Both parties said this was “in the interests of further engagement taking place in a spirit of cooperation and mutual trust”.

A meeting requested by Parliament with the PGA and other journalists working within Parliament would go ahead on a date to be agreed upon, they said.

An initial meeting scheduled for earlier last month was cancelled after Sanef requested an urgent meeting to discuss the matter.—Sapa

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