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#ANC54: Chaos as members of the media stage a walkout

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Chaos erupted at the 54th National Conference moments before the newly appointed president of the African National Conference addressed media at the Progressive Business Forum stalls. This followed over an hour wait for the first media address by Cyril Ramaphosa as the 14th president of the ruling party, frustrated members of the media arguing that the wait set a bad precedent for the president’s term. The incident also called to the fore the general treatment of the media contingent who have been caged-in as a means to ensure limited interaction with delegates.

As it happened:

At approximately 14h20 on Tuesday afternoon, media prepared to join a walkabout with the newly appointed ANC President at the PBF Stalls, but soon after realizing that the shuttle arrangements were not practical, some members of the media protested the decision to shuttle media to the PBF Stalls that proved to be a time consuming process. This after ANC marshals refused to allow the media contingent to be escorted through the area designated for delegates.

After discussions with security officials, members of the media were told that security personnel “don’t know democracy, we only know security” and proceeded to escort media to  the PBF Stalls through the delegate’s area under a tight security cordon. Journalists then joined Ramaphosa on the walkabout, where he purchased ANC paraphernalia.

Things took a turn after journalists waited for over an hour for the president to address them, members of the media subsequently deliberated whether they should boycott the address of the president, asserting their frustration after sitting in the heat of the sun as deadlines mounted.

It was at this point that journalist Sam Mkokeli protested the long wait, with other journalists following suit. While it appeared that members of the media present had also agreed with his sentiments, there was a call from the crowd saying that Mkokeli should not cause a scene. A few moments later Mkokeli was ushered out, saying that his tag was taken by security. Addressing questions by journalists, a security official stated that Mkokeli had handed his tag over to security saying “take my tag”, which security officials accepted. Mkokeli has since stated that he handed the tag over to avoid being manhandled. However, a video released on social media shows Mkokeli being manhandled as he was escorted out.

As Ramaphosa took his position for the address, which proceeded at 16h00, ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa stated that ANC officials are aware of the incident and are investigating the details of the matter.

Given widespread calls in support of Mkokeli, the South African Editor’s Forum (SANEF) has since addressed the concerns related to media treatment at the conference.

Members of the media were in high spirits when they first sat down in anticipation of Ramaphosa’s address: 

In a statement released on Tuesday, SANEF confirmed that the ANC is aware of the incident and that the forum has met with the ANC, Sanef’s media freedom subcommittee, other journalists covering the ANC National Conference and Mkokeli.

SANEF stated that it has received other complaints from members of the media supporting claims of mistreatment of journalists at the conference.

“Since this afternoon’s incident, SANEF has received many complaints from reporters who’ve experienced similar things at the hands of security officials.

“These include pictures that have been deleted, a journalist who was punched in the stomach, another journalist with prosthetic legs who was pushed down and female journalists who have reported being inappropriately touched by marshals inside the Plenary hall,” the statement read.

It further affirmed that the ANC has apologized for the incident and indicated the possibility of Mkokeli having his accreditation returned and requested other members of the media who have experienced similar treatment to come forward.

“The ANC has also pledged to investigate today’s matter and speak to security about incidents of inappropriate behaviour and touching by marshals.”

While SANEF encouraged the ANC to respect media freedom, the statement concluded with appeals for members of the media to respect the security requirements of the conference – “as uncomfortable and undesirable as they may be.”

VOC 91.3fm

 


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