State of the Nation Address and the Repression of the Media

15 Feb 2017
State of the Nation Address and the Repression of the Media

On 9 March 2017, the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, delivered the annual State of the Nation Address in Parliament. Leading up to the SONA, there were reports of repressive measures implemented by Parliament to restrict media access. PEN SA made an urgent appeal to the Secretary of Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, in which we expressed our objections to the media coverage restrictions.

On the day of the SONA, despite the urgent call to the Secretary of Parliament and further condemnation from the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association (PGA), it appears that the repression on the media was carried out by the South African Parliament.

The South African National Editors Forum, has strongly condemned the treatment of journalists in parliament on Thursday night. According to SANEF, there was a “heavy security presence consisting of members of the SAPS, SANDF and SSA – that included heavily armed military police – which created a climate of intimidation”.

SANEF further listed a number of cases in which the freedom of the media was repressed. These include journalists that were intermittently prevented from doing their jobs, camera persons and journalists restricted from freely moving through parliamentary corridors and journalists based at Parliament’s media offices being hampered from leaving and returning to their offices as a line of riot police blocked off the access road.

PEN SA supports SANEF’s call to Parliament’s political and administrative leadership to review the progressive heightening of security measures and securitisation at Parliament.

(Feature image from News24, by Denis Farrell, AP)