The extraordinary actions by the Democratic Alliance in blacklisting Sowetan reporter Anna Majavu has been met with widespread criticism by industry bodies.
Caiphus Kgosana, chairman of the Press Gallery Association, has called the move ‘ill conceived and ill advised” and at odds with the DA’s professed opposition to the Media Appeals Tribunal and the Protection of Information Bill.
“What is the difference between this behaviour and ANC Youth League President Julius Malema throwing out a BBC journalist from a press conference, an act that the DA has already condemned?” Kgosana asks.
“Parliamentary correspondents are accredited by the institution and depend on the free flow of information to do their jobs effectively.
The DA has ample recourse through the press ombudsman and other appeals avenues, including the courts, to challenge journalists who write stories that are unsubstantiated or not based on facts,” he said.
The South African National Editor’s Forum (Sanef) added that the move by the DA against reporter Anna Majavu “flies in the face of the DA’s founding liberal values, including commitment to press freedom”.
“By calling into question Majavu’s credibility as a journalist simply because she used to work for a trade union [the SA Municipal Workers Union] is preposterous. This is the same tactic used by the ANC in an attempt to delegitimise the Press Ombudsman, arguing that he can’t be impartial because he is a journalist by training,” Sanef said in a statement.
Majavu was blacklisted last year by the DA. Its executive director of communications, Ross van der Linde, said that “Majavu is not a journalist. Some journalists and editors disagree with our policies and views, and they are entitled to do so. But Anna Majavu is a former South African Municipal Workers Union spin doctor, who has a particular political agenda.”
Kgosana says that “Either Van der Linde is being disingenuous or he deliberately fails to see the danger in this statement.”
“What he and his party basically mean here is that Majavu will only be allowed to receive statements from the largest opposition party if she agrees with its policies or writes sweetheart stories about them.”
In the meantime, Sanef has called for the DA to “lift the ban”
“Anything less would make it guilty of censorship and sully its otherwise commendable stance on freedom of speech.”
Sowetan acting editor, Thabo Leshilo, said on Thursday that it was “unfortunate that the DA chose to go this route. History shows that the exclusion of journalists is used as a form of censorship against those who do not mollycoddle their subjects. It is no different from Julius Malema kicking out a journalist from a press conference.”