Text of the letter from SANEF to Mr Cedric Frolick, Chairman Parliamentary,Ad Hoc Committee Dealing with Nkandla Issue, July 21 2015
The SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has been advised that your committee has refused access to the media when the committee carries out its planned visit to the residence of the State President at Nkandla this week. Sanef has been told that the committee claims that it does not have the "legal authority to allow the media to enter the President’s private residence". However, it is also apparent that the committee and its chairman have not taken any action to facilitate access of the media to the residence during the committee’s visit.
The media represented by Sanef are deeply shocked at the refusal and what appears to be the total lack of action by the committee to overcome the perceived obstacles to it facilitating access to the media on this occasion.
Sanef believes strongly that the committee has a duty to ensure that the media gains access to the residence to enable it observe all the committee’s activities and any formal or informal and impromptu discussions conducted by the committee and its members during the visit.
Sanef draws the attention of the committee to the following Constitutional provisions, obligations and demands which bolster its view that the committee has a duty to exercise its utmost efforts to enable the media to be present:
Section 57 (1) (b): The National Assembly may make rules and orders concerning its business, with due regard to representative and participatory democracy, accountability, transparency and public involvement;
Section 59 (1) The National Assembly must – facilitate public involvement in the legislative and other processes of the Assembly and its committees, and
(b) conduct its business in an open manner, and hold its sittings, and those of its committees, in public, but reasonable measures may be taken—
(1) To regulate public access, including access of the media, to the Assembly and its committees….
(2) The National Assembly may not exclude the public, including the media, from a sitting of a committee unless it is reasonable and justifiable to do so in an open and democratic society.
The issues surrounding the ``Nkandla matter’’ have correctly raised enormous public interest over a lengthy period and the public have a right to know how matters relating to the controversy are being dealt with. Exclusion of the media from the visit to the residence could result in vital information concerning the issues being withheld from the public. Sanef believes it is not reasonable and justifiable for the media to be excluded
Sanef thus calls on the chairman and the committee to request the President in the strongest terms for permission for the media to enter the residence with the committee.
Media Freedom Committee Chairperson
Media Freedom Committee Deputy Chairperson
Issued by SANEF, July 21 2015