Sanef strongly condemns the ‘securitisation’ of Parliament

Sanef strongly condemns the ‘securitisation’ of Parliament

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has called on Parliament’s political and administrative leadership to seriously reconsider and review the progressive “heightening of security measures and securitisation” at Parliament.

Parliament ahead of SONA
Photo: Faith Daniels

Sanef strongly condemns events which unfolded in Parliament this week during President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address (Sona), which often saw journalists restricted to work, it said in a statement on Saturday.

There was a heavy security presence consisting of members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and State Security Agency (SSA) that included heavily armed military police, which created a climate of intimidation.

“Some journalists were intermittently prevented from doing their jobs as Sona events unfolded, including during the dramatic ejection of parliamentarians. Civilian clothed police officials prevented camera persons and journalists from freely moving through parliamentary corridors.”

Journalists based at Parliament’s media offices were hampered from leaving and returning to their offices as a line of riot police blocked off the access road. Police also attempted to prevent some photographers from capturing scenes in the precinct, Sanef said.

There appeared to have been confusion by individual members of the security establishment who adopted a haphazard approach and who appeared not to be aware of assurances that the media would not be obstructed.

“Sanef is deeply concerned by these events as we view it as a security crackdown on the media in the wake of the broader securitisation of what ought to be the ‘People’s Parliament’. Security measures, including a greater role played by the State Security Agency, appear to have increased year-on-year since 2015.”

Police in Cape Town SONA 2017
Photo: Slindelo Masikane
SONA police

At a media briefing a week before Sona Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana told journalists that there was no foundation to the securitisation of Parliament and that there was no basis of fact to the concerns raised by the media.

Throughout the build-up to Sona parliamentary officials dismissed all the concerns raised by both the Press Gallery Association (PGA) and Sanef, promising there would not be any restrictions on journalists who were doing their work.

National Council of Provinces Chairperson Thandi Modise on the eve of Sona went a step further, saying Parliament would like the media to do their work “without fear”.

Under clause 4 of the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, security services may only be at Parliament “under the authority” of the presiding officers.

Sanef had always understood and abided by special measures implemented in the past during special events such as Sona.

“Sanef calls on Parliament’s political and administrative leadership to seriously reconsider and review the progressive heightening of security measures and securitisation at Parliament. We continue to support the PGA’s right to work in an environment free of fear and intimidation and will urgently raise this matter with parliamentary officials and the police,” the statement said.

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