The Parliamentary Press Gallery Association (PGA) on Wednesday demanded that the legislature withdraw a statement about negotiations on media arrangements for the State of the Nation Address (Sona), saying it was misleading and constituted a breach of trust.
“The statement was not only misleading, but it was issued prematurely while discussions were ongoing between the PGA, Parliament and Sanef (South African National Editors’ Forum,” PGA secretary Paul Vecchiatto said.
Vecchiatto said, contrary to assurances from the secretary of parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, in the statement, the PGA remained concerned that journalists covering President Jacob Zuma’s tenth Sona on Thursday would have their movements and ability to work restricted.
Mgidlana said it was agreed at a meeting between his office and the PGA on Tuesday that, contrary to several media reports, nothing had changed in parliament’s regulations regarding media operations around the event.
“Indeed, nothing has changed in the regulations and protocols governing the operations of the media accredited to cover the State of the Nation Address,” he said.
He added that a liaison team of PGA members had been established to interact with parliamentary officials as “a first point of call to help nip any potential real or imaginary challenge in the bud”.
Vecchiatto countered: “It is not correct to claim that a liaison team of the PGA had been established already to assist in the event of a problem arising on the day,” he said.
“In Tuesday’s meeting, there was no discussion about a statement being issued, and there will still in discussions about the next move forward,” he added.
“By issuing a statement prematurely, parliament has broken our trust.”
Additional security measures have been in place during Zuma’s annual address to Parliament in recent years since the Economic Freedom Fighters began routinely disrupting the event.