DA must apologise to Anna Majavu - ANC

Office of the Chief Whip says blacklisting should send a coal chill down spine of media


13 February 2010

The Democratic Alliance's blacklisting of Sowetan's parliamentary correspondent, Anna Majavu, for having previously worked for SAMWU and for exposing the DA MP's role in the shooting of children in Khayelitsha, is a plain attempt to silence journalists who do not report favourably on the party and its government in the Western Cape. This represents a serious onslaught on the freedom of the press and the right for access to information.

The public have a right to know what the DA does, particularly in the province it governs. The party therefore has no right to withhold information from journalists it feels are not writing sweetheart stories. The DA's statement that the party reserves its right to exclude certain journalists is therefore careless. As the ruling party in the Western Cape, the DA needs to accept that it will be placed under the microscope of the watchdog press.

The party therefore cannot have a Councillor who goes into a township, take part in the shooting of defenceless black children, and want the public to be kept in the dark about it. The media is bound to report on the matter, particularly when the same Councillor gets promoted to parliament few months down the line, in what could be seen as reward.

The shameless reason by the DA spokesperson for Majavu's exclusion from the party's media briefings and press lists should send a cold chill down the spine of journalists who might in future report critically on the party. The journalist's blacklisting confirms the ghastly experiences expressed privately by some journalists regarding their treatment by DA leaders, particularly Helen Zille, during interviews.

It is understood that such treatment includes intimidation, angry fits and tantrums throwing. The SABC news bulletin previously captured Zille throwing temper tantrums after a reporter made a mistake of asking her a difficult question. The Cape Argus also reported in 2009 that Zille called and threatened one of its journalists, screaming: "I'm taking you all down, including the editors". This was after the journalist, Lindsay Dentlinger, reported on the premier's majority white all male cabinet. The Times' Abdul Milazi wrote on his blog last year that he received a threatening call from a DA representative after the paper published the story on the DA MP's shooting in Khayelitsha.

The DA's blacklisting and intimidation of journalists represents a backward tendency that was prevalent during the apartheid era, which was characterised by constant harassment and dictating to the media how to conduct its business. It is shameful that the DA has publicly been portraying itself as a friend of the media and defender of press freedom, while its leaders have been secretly terrorising members of the media.

Members of the public, particularly those living in the Western Cape, indeed have a reason to be concerned by this treatment of the press by the party. We agree with the statement by the parliamentary Press Gallery Association (PGA) that the move "sets a very dangerous precedent".

The Office of the ANC Chief wishes to express its condemnation of the party's unacceptable conduct. We call on the DA to apologise to Majavu and immediately cease with the intimidation of other members of the press.

Statement issued by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, ANC Parliamentary Caucus, Cape Town, February 13 2011

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