No special accreditation for some media, says Presidency

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pretoria - The Presidency and Durban's City Manager, Michael Sutcliffe, have denied claims by the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) that some media were given privileged accreditation during a visit to the Moses Mabhida Stadium last Saturday.

In a statement, the Presidency said that it was for safety and security reasons that not all media were able to accompany President Jacob Zuma for a part of his tour.

"It was simply not possible to have all the media accompany the President for the very short first part of his tour, which was about a 100-metre walk," said a statement issued by the Presidency.

It further said that those that did accompany the President had no interaction with him and were simply able to get visual material during this part of the tour.

The President, as part of an African National Congress campaign, had visited the stadium to thank workers constructing the stadium.

The ruling party's provincial structures issued an invite to all journalists to hear President Zuma's address to the workers. "All who responded received accreditation and because it is a construction site they also had to undergo a site induction," said the Presidency.

It further explained that the President also had to be inducted and received a presentation on the stadium.

It was from this induction area on his way to address the workers that he viewed the change rooms and a mock-up suite and some media were invited accompany him so that they had visuals of where he would visit.

These included SABC and ETV, as well as journalists from the Sunday papers, the Tribune, Independent, Isolezwe, Ilanga and Sunday Times as well as a few photographers.

These journalists followed the President as he walked through the change rooms after which they were directed to the seating where the rest of the media and workers had assembled.

"Those who did accompany him, simply followed him and had no privileged status. They had no interaction with the President and the aim was simply to ensure the TV and Sunday papers to get some visuals and feel of the area the President had visited," said the Presidency.

President Zuma then continued with his tour of the stadium and walked down to the bowl and addressed the workers. He then addressed the media.

The Presidency said it was a pity that SANEF did not establish the facts before making the claims they did.

The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) has also expressed disappointment at SANEF alleging that the GCIS refused entry of some journalists to the event.

"GCIS would like to place it on record that it was neither part of the arrangements nor involved in the event as suggested in the statement by SANEF," said Chief Executive Officer and Government Spokesperson, Themba Maseko

"We are extremely disappointed that SANEF, a body representing editors who are expected to ensure that their journalists check their stories thoroughly before publishing, did not bother to verify the facts before issuing the statement."

Mr Maseko added urged SANEF to retract its statement.

"We are extremely puzzled by this act. We hereby call on the leadership of SANEF to retract this statement and to apologise publicly for misleading the public," he said.

GCIS and the South African government do not subscribe to any "privileged accreditation" process and remain committed to facilitating media access to government and form partnerships with all media to ensure that the public is informed.

"We will continue to work with all media organizations to ensure that the media freedom is strengthened in this country," Mr Maseko added.