Parliamentary journalists 'very alarmed' over SONA security

Journalists will need a police escort to move between 'media squares'

Parliamentary journalists 'very alarmed' over SONA security

6 February 2017

Cape Town - The Parliamentary Press Gallery Association (PGA) is very alarmed at the planned restrictions of movement aimed journalists at this week's State of the Nation Address (SONA).

PGA chairperson Joylene van Wyk told News24 on Monday that the new security measures for President Jacob Zuma's first parliamentary address of 2017 on Thursday were unprecedented.

"We are very alarmed about the 'media squares' that Parliament wants to initiate on SONA day," she said.

"Journalists who want to move between two 'media squares' will need a police escort on the day."

This will be the first year that movement is restricted in squares for journalists on the occasion of the president's address.

Van Wyk also said that Spin Street, the street leading to the offices of many of the journalists based in Parliament, would be closed and inaccessible.

The PGA acknowledged that certain events required more stringent security protocols at Parliament, but said that free movement was essential for recording the day's events, and no such restrictions had been seen before.

Van Wyk said that getting accredited for the event meant that a journalist had met all the security requirements of Parliament.

"They then cannot be hindered or obstructed or diverted away from any activity or incident that may occur on the west side of Parliament Street or may be seen from that area."

Assurances 'can't be trusted'

The PGA had met with Parliament and raised the concerns, she said.

"However, these assurances cannot be trusted because they insist on an escort and the corralling of the journalists into a media square.

"Such an escort can be used to delay or result in the non-reporting of any event of public interest."

Journalists had been assaulted at previous SONAs by "plain-clothed" security officials, she said.

The PGA will lobby the South African National Editor's Forum and various media houses to assist in filing an urgent court application to have the restrictions lifted.

Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana, meanwhile, promised last week that there would be no additional security measures during SONA.

"In terms of our operations, we have not really changed in terms of format from what we have done in the past," he said.

Roads around the precinct will be closed in phases from February 7.

This article first appeared on News24, see here.